Recently, our office was fortunate to have received a call from a distressed young man who has been charged with two counts of Criminal Trespass and one count of Hindering Apprehension. After speaking with our client, it was evident that the young man had not intended to commit those crimes. He was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, nor does he have any record of prior transgressions. Rather, he had had a psychotic episode and required treatment – not punishment.
Our attorneys immediately contacted the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO). We put forth the defense that our client was mentally ill and had no intent and very little recollection of the offense. After extensive communication with the OCPO we found out that the office had recently received state funding that was granted to only three counties that would be used to create a Mental Health Diversion Program (MHDP). In this program, a defendant would receive a psychological screening and work with a mental health professional in order to receive treatment rather than becoming a cog in the criminal system. However, the OCPO informed us initially that our client’s acts were violent, and as such, disqualifying for the program. We successfully argued on his behalf that, but for his illness, he never would have committed those acts. After working closely with the State and Ocean County Superior Court, he became the first ever successful applicant into the program where he continues to excel. The OCPO MHDP is a wonderful opportunity for those individuals with mental illness who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Our office supports the OCPO in this initiative and wishes the program, and its candidates, the best of luck!
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State v. E.C.