New Jersey v. Johnson

This appeal arose from defendant Davon Johnson’s unsuccessful application for pretrial intervention (PTI), filed in anticipation of his indictment for third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) within 1000 feet of a school zone. In May 2014, defendant was charged with motor vehicle and CDS offenses, including violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a). He applied for PTI and included a statement of compelling reasons supporting his admission. The prosecutor rejected defendant’s application. The prosecutor relied on New Jersey v. Caliguiri, 158 N.J. 28 (1999), which permitted prosecutors to treat an N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 offense as a second-degree offense, thereby triggering the presumption against admission into PTI. And, quoting PTI Guideline 3(i), the prosecutor found defendant presumptively ineligible for PTI because he was charged with the “sale or dispensing” of a Schedule I or II narcotic and was not drug dependent. Following the denial of his application, a grand jury indicted defendant. Defendant appealed the denial to the trial court, which refused to disturb the prosecutor’s determination. Defendant then entered a guilty plea to third-degree possession of heroin. He appealed to the Appellate Division, arguing the prosecutor incorrectly applied the two presumptions against PTI. The New Jersey Supreme Court granted review and found that the 2009 amendments to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7’s sentencing structure reflected a more flexible sentencing policy that rendered Caliguiri’s reasoning no longer viable. Accordingly, the Supreme Court held the presumption against PTI for second-degree offenders could not be applied to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a) offenders. The Court also found that the presumption against PTI for the “sale” of narcotics was not applicable here because defendant was charged with possession with intent to “distribute” and there was no allegation or evidence that he sold the narcotics. The matter was remanded so that the prosecutor could reassess defendant’s application without consideration of the presumptions. View "New Jersey v. Johnson" on Justia Law