Submitted May 8, 2018
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Middlesex County, Accusation No. 17-09-0823.
Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA, attorneys for appellant
(Darren M. Gelber, of counsel and on the brief).
C. Carey, Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for
respondent State of New Jersey (Brian D. Gillet, Deputy First
Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).
Lowenthal & Abrams, PC, attorneys for respondents Parents
of W.V. (Michael W. Landis, on the brief). 
Judges Fisher, Fasciale and Moynihan.
a tragic case involving the death of an infant that occurred
after defendant placed him on his stomach for a nap in her
daycare-home business. Two lawsuits resulted from the
incident. The State charged defendant with second-degree
endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)(2);
and the infants' parents filed a civil lawsuit against
defendant seeking money damages.
State consented to defendant's admission into pre-trial
intervention (PTI), and agreed to drop the charges if she
successfully completed the program. Enrollment into PTI,
however, required that defendant plead guilty because of the
second-degree charge. Before pleading guilty, defendant's
insurance company disclaimed coverage in the civil matter.
Without insurance - and a civil reservation - defendant faced
disastrous financial consequences if she pled guilty because
the parents could use her plea as an admission of liability.
These consequences created a genuine obstacle to resolving
the criminal charge.
overcame that impediment by relying on Rule 3:9-2
and requesting, without opposition from the State, that her
guilty plea not be evidential in the civil dispute. Defendant
argued that the consequences of her guilty plea in the civil
case - likely devastating financial ruin because she was
uninsured - constituted good cause under the rule. The judge
denied her request and entered the order under review.
legal question - when enrollment into the PTI program is
contingent on a defendant pleading guilty to a second-degree
charge - is whether the civil consequences of wreaking
devastating personal financial havoc on a defendant
constitutes good cause under Rule 3:9-2. We hold
that such a financial circumstance establishes good cause
permitting a civil reservation. We emphasize that the civil
reservation here eliminated the obstacle to avoiding an
unnecessary criminal trial against defendant, who feared that
the civil claimants would later use her plea of guilty as a
devastating admission of civil liability.
a de novo review to this legal question, State v.
Nash, 212 N.J. 518, 540-41 (2013), we conclude that the judge
erred by denying defendant's request to plead guilty with
a civil reservation. We therefore reverse.
facts are undisputed. On December 1, 2015, the five-month-old
infant died. Before the State filed the charge, the
parents' first civil attorney notified defendant that he
represented the parents, and directed defendant to forward
his representation letter to ...