Calling all Hudson County elementary and high school students! With schools closed and everyone staying home, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has launched the “How Much We Love Hudson County” Drawing and Creativity Contest. Have fun, be creative, and share what is special about your town and what you love most. Community pride is strong in Hudson and we can’t wait to see your creativity! Submit your drawings, video, poems, and more by Friday, April 24 by email to CreativityContest@hcpo.org.
The Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor has instituted a Veterans Diversion Program for eligible residents within Hudson County. Under the VDP, as codified in the New Jersey Criminal Code at N.J.S.A. 2C:43-23 to 2C:43-31, veterans who are charged with certain non-violent crimes may be eligible for diversion to rehabilitative treatment in lieu of the traditional criminal justice process. The program involves intensive supervision and monitoring of a veteran’s treatment by an applicable treatment provider, the Veterans Administration, and the Prosecutor’s Office. Participants must meet all diversion requirements to remain in the VDP, and ordinarily, the program must be successfully completed within two years from the date of diversion. Upon successful completion of the VDP, the participant may have their charges dismissed.
To be eligible for the VDP, the applicant must be an active or former member of the United States armed forces, a reserve component thereof, or an organized militia of the State of New Jersey who has been discharged or released from active service under conditions other than dishonorable, and the charges must have some causal relation to their military service. Only non-violent, third-degree and fourth-degree crimes are eligible for diversion under this program. Veterans charged with more serious crimes, or who were previously convicted of a violent crime, will be deemed ineligible for VDP participation. In addition, offenses involving domestic violence are presumptively ineligible for diversion. See N.J.S.A. 2C:43-26b for more details on charges that are eligible for diversion. The Prosecutor’s Office retains sole discretion over who is admitted into the VDP in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:43-26(b)(1) .
The first step in determining eligibility for the VDP is verification of a defendant’s current or former veteran status. It is incumbent upon a defendant, with assistance of counsel, to provide documentation or information that verifies the defendant’s veteran status. Typically, this can be presented in the form of a validly issued Common Access Card, DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, retired identification card, and government agency issued Veterans Identification Card, or other acceptable documentary evidence indicating former service status. Information about your Military Service Records can be obtained at: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records
After service is verified, a defendant must be deemed “eligible” for entry into the VDP. To be eligible, a defendant must have some mental illness or condition that may have caused or contributed to his or her commission of the offense. A “mental illness” is defined under the New Jersey Veterans Diversion Statute as “a mental disorder classified within the current version of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including, but not limited to, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, adjustment disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
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 Prosecutor’s Office after considering a number of factors, including, but not limited to:
A defendant accepted into the VDP shall agree in writing to a number of terms under the New Jersey Veterans Diversion Statute, in addition to conditions set forth by the Prosecutor’s Office. Specifically, a defendant must agree to:
Because eligibility for the VDP is predicated upon an illness or condition causing or contributing to a defendant’s commission of an offense, the defendant must seek and participate in mental health or addiction counseling and treatment as part of the VDP. A participating defendant, with the assistance of counsel, must take steps to receive necessary treatment with Veterans Affairs. At this time, the VA Secaucus Vet Center located at 110A Meadowlands Parkway, Secaucus, New Jersey, 07094; the Hudson County Office of Veterans Affairs at (201) 369-3430; and State of New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Hudson County Office at (201) 536-3401; have agreed to partner with the Prosecutor’s Office to provide social service support and referrals, including referrals for clinical assessment for potentially qualified veterans. Additionally, treatment may be supplemented or, in limited cases, substituted through private mental health or addiction counseling and treatment at the discretion of the Prosecutor’s Office.
As a condition of entry in the VDP, periodic counseling and treatment updates must be provided in writing to the Prosecutor’s Office through counsel or by the defendant. It is the responsibility of the defendant to make sure that these updates or reports are forwarded by the VA or other treatment provider.
Under the New Jersey Veterans Diversion Statute, the court shall review the status of deferred prosecutions under the VDP at least every six months from the date a defendant was admitted into the VDP and, thereafter, every six months until completion of the VDP.
A veteran who successfully completes the terms and conditions of this program to the satisfaction of the Prosecutor, continues to make progress with mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, and has not been the subject of any subsequent criminal charges may have his or her charges dismissed. If the defendant’s charges are dismissed after successful completion of the VDP, the defendant may apply for expungement following the issuance of an order of dismissal.
If at any time after admission into the VDP, the Prosecutor’s Office determines that a participating defendant has failed to comply with any term or condition of the diversion agreement, the Prosecutor’s Office may notify the court that it is prepared to proceed with the prosecution and the court shall schedule court proceedings as appropriate.
Attorneys who believe their clients qualify for this program must apply within 45 days from the date of arrest. Applicants must complete the VDP Application Form, VDP Acknowledgements Form and VDP Medical Release Form. These forms may be downloaded below. The completed forms should then be emailed to Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Andrea Hellinghausen at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Assistant Prosecutor Priya Ramrup at email@example.com.
Any additional questions regarding the program can be directed to Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Andrea Hellinghausen at (201) 795-6400, ext. 6530 or Assistant Prosecutor Priya Ramrup at (201) 795-6400, ext. 6761.