Instead of amending Moose’s law to remove untenable, unreasonable provisions, last discussed here, the bill was amended to to provide that persons charged with “animal cruelty offenses,” a presumption against being admitted into a pretrial intervention program.  As described in the statement to S861, “[a] pretrial intervention program is a program that provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution.”

Once again, the bill fails to differentiate egregious acts of animal cruelty for which such a provision might be reasonable to apply, from other alleged violations of the animal cruelty statute.  Such a provision appears to conflict with current state and federal measures of criminal justice reform.

With no reliable available database to track animal cruelty cases, which in New Jersey are often adjudicated in municipal courts, it is impossible to prove that those with lower socio-economic status are more frequently defendants in these cases.  However, it is not unreasonable to assume that such persons, if accused, would not have the resources to retain an attorney to provide a vigorous defense or minimize their liability.

The amendment to N.J.S.2C:43-12 reads as follows, in relevant part

     2C:43-12.   Supervisory Treatment–Pretrial Intervention.

  1. Public policy. The purpose of N.J.S.2C:43-12 through N.J.S.2C:43-22 is to effectuate a Statewide program of Pretrial Intervention.  It is the policy of the State of New Jersey that supervisory treatment should ordinarily be limited to persons who have not previously been convicted of any criminal offense under the laws of New Jersey, or under any criminal law of the United States, or any other state when supervisory treatment would:

(1)   Provide applicants, on an equal basis, with opportunities to avoid ordinary prosecution by receiving early rehabilitative services or supervision, when such services or supervision can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior by an applicant, and when there is apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative or supervisory need, without which cause both the alleged offense and the need to prosecute might not have occurred; or

(2)   Provide an alternative to prosecution for applicants who might be harmed by the imposition of criminal sanctions as presently administered, when such an alternative can be expected to serve as sufficient sanction to deter criminal conduct; or

(3)   Provide a mechanism for permitting the least burdensome form of prosecution possible for defendants charged with “victimless” offenses, other than defendants who were public officers or employees charged with offenses that involved or touched their office or employment; or

(4)   Provide assistance to criminal calendars in order to focus expenditure of criminal justice resources on matters involving serious criminality and severe correctional problems; or

(5)   Provide deterrence of future criminal or disorderly behavior by an applicant in a program of supervisory treatment.

  1. (1)  Admission of an applicant into a program of supervisory treatment shall be measured according to the applicant’s amenability to correction, responsiveness to rehabilitation and the nature of the offense.

(2)   There shall be a presumption against admission into a program of supervisory treatment for:

(a)   a defendant who was a public officer or employee whose offense involved or touched upon his public office or employment; [and]

(b)   a defendant 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.) or if the crime or offense charged involved violence or the threat of violence.  For purposes of this subparagraph, a crime or offense involves violence or the threat of violence if the victim sustains serious or significant bodily injury as defined in subsection b. or d. of N.J.S.2C:11-1, or the actor is armed with and uses a deadly weapon or threatens by word or gesture to use a deadly weapon as defined in subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:11-1, or threatens to inflict serious or significant bodily injury ; and

(c) a defendant charged with a criminal animal cruelty offense, as defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.    (C.          ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) .