TRENTON- Petty thieves may now have a “get-out-of-jail free card” at the municipal court level.

On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-Ewing) and Sen. Nicholas Scutari, (D-Linden), which offers first-time, low-level offenders a chance to avoid jail time through pre-trial intervention (PTI).

According to Turner, in the state of New Jersey, individuals accused of petty theft offenses below the $200 threshold are typically charged in a municipal court. There are three types of theft offenses — theft of moveable property, receiving stolen property and theft by deception — which are considered disorderly persons offenses.

Crimes above the threshold are typically charged in superior court. However, county prosecutors have the ability to downgrade an indictable theft offense to the disorderly persons level even if the amount of the theft surpasses the $200 mark. For example, an allegation of the theft of $750 is nominally a crime of the third degree. However, in the majority of the cases this charge would not be indicted, and it would be heard in municipal court as a lesser offense, according to

“At the superior court level defendants are given an option of PTI instead of jail time, but we didn’t have that at the municipal court level —i t was sending a message that if you are going to steal … steal big,” said Turner. “This essentially closes up a loophole.”

The law creates and alternative for first-time offenders who are charged with a lesser, non-indictable offense, helping potentially thousands of first-time offenders avoid a record of conviction, according to a release.

“We see more of these petty crimes in municipalities with more retail outlets, like Lawrenceville,” Turner said. “This will help someone who makes a mistake to not get a criminal record which we know can hurt that person in the long run … in getting a job or even buying a home.”

A similar bill was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Christie late last year. The state assembly included a $500 fine to assist municipalities with the costs associated with the program. The new measure reduces the fine to $75 in an effort to make the conditional dismissal option feasible for everyone, including those with limited means.

However, a person would not be eligible for PTI in several offenses including organized criminal or gang activity, continuing criminal business or enterprise, a breach of the public trust by a state or city employee, domestic violence or an offense involving driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, just to name a few.

“This will save taxpayers a lot of money and can give someone a second chance,” said Turner.

Although Turner won the governor’s vote for this piece of legislation, she wasn’t as successful on two additional laws she wanted Christie’s approval for.

Turner’s request to revises the law concerning the purchase of scrap metal and her bill, which would have moved the Nov. 5th General Election to the date of the Special U.S. Senate election of Oct. 16 to save taxpayers a minimum of $12.5 million, received the Governor’s absolute veto.

“The absolute veto of this legislation gives metal thieves the green light to continue dismantling our urban area churches, public buildings, and homes to earn a quick buck illegally. Twenty other states have passed legislation to strengthen their scrap metal laws, and it’s unfortunate that despite the rampant thefts, New Jersey will not be updating its regulatory practices to deter the illegal market,” Turner said in a press release.

“Governor Christie says that the bill will impose additional expenses and burdens on operators in this state and that law abiding businesses should not be penalized with the burden of the new requirements proposed by the bill,” the release explained.

It is critical that you find an attorney who has a very clear understanding of the law, the crime and the implications and who will work with you. Call Attorney Jason Komninos today at 201.343.4622 for a free consultation today if you are facing serious criminal charges and need representation.

See original article here.