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State v. Chen

New Jersey Appellate Division

November 24, 2020

In State v. Chen, three knuckleheads set fire to a variety of items, including a mattress and trash bin. Unsurprisingly, this incident involved alcohol and a frat party. A few third-degree burns later, the defendants were charged with arson. They applied to the Pretrial Intervention Program. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office received the defendants’ applications and saw an opportunity to one-up the knuckleheads’ childish behavior; the prosecutor’s office said it would only admit the drunken pyromaniacs’ applications if they agreed to serve jail time as part of PTI. As the Appellate Division noted, jail time is not a permissible condition of PTI, thus the prosecutor’s office had no authority to demand it. The Appellate Division ordered that the fire-starters be admitted into PTI without the condition of jail time.

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