On appeal from Middlesex County Court.
Halpern, Larner and King. The opinion of the court was delivered by Halpern, P.J.A.D.
The narrow issue presented is whether defendant is eligible for admission into the Middlesex County Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI).
The undisputed facts are that in June 1977 defendant's driver's license was suspended by the Director, Division of Motor Vehicles for failure to provide proof of insurance coverage on his car following an accident. In August 1977, driving while his license was still suspended, he was involved in another accident resulting in injury to a bicyclist, and he was charged with violating N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. Under the statute, if defendant were found to be guilty, he would be subject to a mandatory fine and imprisonment of not less than 45 days. See State v. Fearick , 69 N.J. 32 (1976).
Defendant's application for admission into Middlesex County's PTI program was denied by the program's coordinator. His application to the County Court for admission into the program was denied on January 24, 1978 on the ground that the court had no authorization or jurisdiction to consider the application.
We granted defendant's application for leave to appeal, stayed the disposition of the motor vehicle charge, directed the Attorney General to appear and file a brief as amicus curiae , and accelerated a hearing on the merits pursuant to R. 2:11-2. We now affirm.
PTI programs were instituted in New Jersey on an experimental basis by the Supreme Court when it originally adopted R. 3:28 in 1970.*fn1 The rule has been amended
several times through the years to meet unanticipated problems that soon surfaced. When defendant applied for admission into PTI in January 1978 the rule provided in relevant part:
3:28. Pretrial Intervention Programs
(a) In counties where a pretrial intervention program is approved by the Supreme Court for operation under this rule, the Assignment Judge shall designate a judge or judges to act on all matters pertaining to the program, with the exception, however, that the Assignment Judge shall him or herself act on all such matters involving treason, murder, kidnapping, manslaughter, sodomy, rape, armed robbery, or sale or dispensing of narcotic drugs by persons not drug-dependent.
(b) Where a defendant charged with a penal or criminal offense has been accepted by the program, the designated judge may, on the recommendation of the trial Court Administrator for the county, the Chief Probation Officer for the county, or such other person approved by the Supreme Court as program director, and with the consent of the prosecuting attorney and the defendant, postpone all further proceedings against said defendant on such charges for a period not to exceed 3 months.
Middlesex County's application to institute a PTI program for defendants charged only with indictable offenses was granted by the Supreme Court on ...