PTI and Mental Illness (Part 2)

by | May 31, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court concluded with the following in relevant part: Here, like the defendant in Fitzsimmons, defendant argued she made substantial progress toward rehabilitation after the May 2018 incidents. Further, she represented she was compliant with her mental health treatment. Moreover, the motion judge remarked at argument that defendant “seemed to be stabilized” and had not “picked up any new offenses.” Yet the record does not demonstrate how defendant’s efforts to rehabilitate herself and her progress in treatment factored into the State’s decision to deny her PTI application. As we have noted, when the State fails to adequately explain its reasoning for how it has assessed the relevant statutory factors, as it did here, a remand is warranted. See State v. Mickens (App. Div. 1989).

Given the passage of time, the State’s review of defendant’s PTI application should be conducted anew, and its assessment must include not only consideration of defendant’s mental health issues and ongoing treatment, if any, but also a more robust explanation of its evaluation of the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12(e). Similarly, considering how much time has passed since the State last considered defendant’s PTI application, she must be afforded the opportunity to supply the State with any current information bearing on her application. See State v. Coursey (App. Div. 2016). Once the State has considered defendant’s updated application, it shall advise the judge if it still opposes defendant’s entry into PTI. We are confident the judge, informed by defendant’s behavior while on probation for well over two years, at that point will be in a superior position to assess whether the State has properly considered defendant’s suitability for PTI. Should the State again reject defendant from PTI and the judge finds such a determination constitutes a patent and gross abuse of its discretion, we order the judge to vacate defendant’s convictions and enter an order admitting defendant into PTI. We leave it to the court’s discretion to determine if defendant should receive credit for time spent on probation in determining the length of defendant’s required participation in the program. On the other hand, if the prosecutor still opposes her admission, and the judge affirms the prosecutor’s decision, defendant’s judgments of conviction shall stand.

This litigation could have been avoided if the State listed the positive factors bearing on the defendant’s PTI admission and noted that those factors were considered in rejecting the PTI application. Prosecutors tend to be complacent with their PTIOI rejection reasoning because the standard to overcome a rejection is so high.