Veterans Diversion Program
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is proud to announce the launch of a Veterans Diversion Program (VDP) in Passaic County.
Under the new VDP, eligible veterans who are charged with a non-violent petty disorderly persons offense, disorderly persons offense, or crime of the third or fourth degree may be eligible for diversion to rehabilitative treatment in lieu of the traditional criminal justice process. Participants must meet all diversion requirements to remain in the VDP, and the program must be successfully completed within two years from the date of diversion. A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the prosecutor, has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges, and continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment shall have his/her charges dismissed.
To be eligible for the VDP, the applicant must be an eligible servicemember. A servicemember is defined as any veteran or enlisted person or officer of the United States Armed Forces, or a reserve component thereof, or the organized militia of the State of New Jersey pursuant
to N.J.S.38A:1-3. The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office retains sole discretion over who is admitted into the VDP.
Once a defendant claims current or former military service, it is incumbent upon him or her, with assistance of counsel where appropriate, to provide documentation or information that verifies such status. Typically, this will be presented in the form of a validly issued Common Access Card (CAC), DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, retired ID card, a government agency-issued Veterans Identification Card, or other acceptable documentary evidence indicating former service status.
A defendant must be deemed “eligible” for entry into the VDP. To be eligible, the servicemember must have allegedly committed an eligible offense and who has a prior diagnosis of mental illness or for whom a law enforcement officer or prosecutor has a reasonable belief that the person has a mental illness based on behaviors and symptoms exhibited during the commission of the offense or while in custody. A “mental illness” is defined under the NJ Veterans Diversion Statute as “a mental disorder classified within the current version of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), including, but not limited to, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, adjustment disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
No eligible servicemember shall be admitted to the Veterans Diversion Program if the person has criminal charges pending for a crime of the second degree or higher, if the crime or offense involved violence or the threat of violence, or if the person was previously convicted of a violent crime enumerated in subsection d. of section 2 of P.L.1997, c. 117 (C.2C:43-7.2).
There shall be a presumption against admission into the Veterans Diversion Program, subject to the discretion of the prosecutor after consulting with any victim, for a servicemember charged with any crime or offense involving domestic violence, as defined in subsection a. of section 3 of P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-19) if the defendant committed the crime or offense while subject to a temporary or permanent restraining order issued pursuant to the provisions of the
“Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-17 et al.).
While a defendant may be deemed eligible for the VDP, the decision to accept the defendant into the program is at the sole discretion of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office after considering a number of factors, including, but not limited to:
-The extent of causative or contributory relationship between the person’s diagnosed or apparent mental illness and the commission of the offense;
-The amenability of the defendant to participating in the VDP conditions;
-The nature and circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense(s);
- The desires of any victim;
- The person’s history of prior convictions; and
- The likelihood that diversion will promote the person’s recovery, prevent future criminal behavior, and ensure public safety.
REQUIREMENTS AFTER ACCEPTANCE IN THE PROGRAM
(1) Participate in case management and mental health services initiated through the Veterans Diversion Resource entity or other similar services and to cooperate with any recommended course of treatment, including the use of medications as prescribed and participation in counseling.
(2) Authorize the case management or mental health service provider to release to the prosecutor periodic status reports regarding the servicemember's participation, cooperation, and recovery progress with case management and mental health services.
(3) Cooperate with case management service providers to procure housing, education, and employment services, where appropriate.
(4) Pay restitution for damages that have resulted from the offense (if applicable).
(5) Refrain from the use of alcohol or illegal drugs or frequent any place where alcohol or illegal drugs are sold and used.
(6) Refrain from the possession or use of firearms or other weapons.
(7) Refrain from further criminal activity.
(8) Refrain from any contact with a victim of the offense (if applicable).
(9) Cooperate with a mentor, where assigned, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Justice Outreach Specialist.
(10) Suspend the tolling of time for the purposes of the servicemember's right to a speedy trial while the servicemember is participating in the program.
(11) Advise the prosecutor of any change in the servicemember's residential address or any change in the provider of case management and mental health services.
(12) Any other terms and conditions related to the servicemember's recovery and public safety deemed appropriate by the prosecutor.
NON COMPLIANCE WITH PROGRAM
If, at any time after admission into the VDP, the prosecutor determines that the servicemember has failed to comply with any term or condition of the diversion agreement, the prosecutor may notify the court that it is prepared to proceed with the prosecution and the court shall schedule court proceedings as appropriate.
HOW TO APPLY
Attorneys who believe their clients may qualify for this program should complete the VDP Application form, VDP Medical Release form and VDP Referral form. The completed .pdf forms should then be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any additional questions regarding the program can be directed to Senior Assistant Prosecutor In-Charge Jorge Morales at 973-881-4329 email@example.com or Acting Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Seth Galkin 973-881-4849 firstname.lastname@example.org.