The following is an article originally released by local publication Sun Community News. This article is being reposted with the permission of the author, Alana Penny.
Essex Co. to offer new traffic reduction, diversion programs
Programs will streamline process, relieve some of DA’s workload
ELIZABETHTOWN | The Essex County District Attorney’s office will begin using a company called Advent to offer reduction and diversion programs to motorists.
With already heavy workloads, the Essex County District Attorney’s office, and district attorney offices across the state, have decided to initiate traffic reduction and diversion programs. These programs help them handle the volume of tickets that come across their desks, increase public safety by requiring motorists to take safety courses as a part of the reduction process and provide a more efficient process to reduce these tickets. It also keeps the funding local.
They selected Advent because it is used by other DA offices in the state and the company representative was persistent and provided a well-received presentation.
Previously, troopers would issue tickets and negotiate reductions. Legislators later decided assigning troopers to prosecute tickets as well as issuing them was a conflict. When this changed, ticket reductions were left to the discretion of prosecutors.
“I can tell you that this was an unfunded change, and my office received zero compensation to aid in the handling of the paperwork, the phone calls, the court time, etc,” Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said. “Then with the new Discovery reform, the burden of providing discovery materials to a motorist was piled on as well.”
Discovery reform was part of criminal justice reform legislation that went into effect in 2020. It requires prosecutors to disclose evidence to the defense earlier in the court process.
The Essex County DA Office's reduction program will be available to all motorists, and the diversion program is more restrictive and requires more from the motorist.
To receive a reduction, anyone who has a traffic ticket can request it through an online portal. Even though the respective court will ultimately make the decision, Advent will act as the liaison between motorists and the DA's office, processing all the paperwork.
There is a $20 application fee for the reduction program.
The diversion program only applies to motorists who haven't had a reduction in the last 18 months. There are also exclusions such as very high speeds, not moving for emergency vehicles and misdemeanor driving offenses. Eligible motorists will have to fill out an online application and submit the required documents. Then, they will attend a driver safety course. This course will be paid for by the individual. Essex County has not decided how much this will cost, but most DA offices charge anywhere from $250 to $500. Once the course is completed, the motorist must present proof to Advent that they completed it. Advent will forward that to the Court.
The set application fee will be divided between the county and the town where the ticket was issued. The DA does not receive any of the money.
“These programs being easily accessible through an online portal will allow the motorist the ability to handle the steps seamlessly and not have to appear personally, which can cause congestion in the Courts,” Sprague said.
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