Attorney Travis. J. Tormey of the Tormey Law Firm was recently quoted in an article published by NJ.com, after the news source requested his legal opinion regarding the domestic violence case against former Ravens football player Ray Rice. In the most recent development in this case, Rice was approved for enrollment in New Jersey’s Superior Court Pre-Trial Intervention Program, a rare occurrence in cases of this kind, according to Tormey.
Rice was initially facing charges for aggravated assault in the Atlantic County Superior Court, following the release of surveillance video which documented him assaulting a woman who is now his wife. The Baltimore Ravens subsequently terminated Rice’s contract with the team and the NFL issued an open-ended suspension against him on Monday, September 8th. The resolution of his criminal case was pending prior to the Prosecutor’s Office’s recent decision to approve him for PTI.
In New Jersey, charges for aggravated assault are classified as felony-level offenses under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b. Defendants accused of committing these offenses can be subject to charges graded as second, third, or fourth degree crimes, per the circumstances of the specific case. As such, an individual could be facing a New Jersey State Prison sentence ranging from 18 months to 10 years, depending on the degree of the charges filed against him or her.
In the aforementioned case, which incited national outrage, Rice was charged with a third degree aggravated assault crime, punishable by a maximum 5-year term of incarceration. Some cases involving aggravated assault are downgraded to disorderly persons offenses, which are adjudicated in Municipal Court and entail significantly less severe penalties. For instance, an individual convicted of a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey can be sentenced to a maximum 6 month-period to be served in the county jail.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office’s surprising PTI determination in Rice’s case, which was not remanded to the municipal court, contradicts the common course of action in domestic violence cases in New Jersey, as noted by Mr. Tormey and other seasoned legal professionals.
In discussing his extensive experience representing clients in domestic violence cases throughout New Jersey, Mr. Tormey stated: “This is very unusual and kind of surprising that prosecutors allowed him into PTI if they had that video. In cases of domestic violence, it’s typically hard to get into PTI.”
New Jersey law contains similar language which serves to substantiate Mr. Tormey’s opinion regarding PTI eligibility for defendants’ charged with domestic violence. In fact, N.J.S.A 2C:43-12(e) provides an extensive list of factors to be considered by the probation department and the prosecutor’s office before approving a defendant’s enrollment into PTI. Specifically, “Whether or not the crime is of an assaultive or violent nature” is included as one of the grounds for PTI application rejection.
Further, the conditional dismissal program, a diversionary program similar to PTI that is provided through the Municipal Court for lower-level offenses, does not allow entrance for defendants charged in cases related to domestic violence.
Overall, the Rice decision has the following implications: he will not be sentenced to a term of incarceration, will not be subject to a period of parole, and cannot receive any additional punishment for these charges, provided that he successfully complies with the conditions of the one-year PTI probationary period. If Rice does, in fact, complete the program, the charges against Rice will be dismissed and he will be eligible to expunge any record of the arrest, the charges, and the dismissal of the case. Ultimately, am expungement would result in a completely clean criminal record for Rice.
Ironically, this case occurred in the same year as the 20th anniversary of the federal Violence Against Women Act, which was passed in 1994. One of the elements of this law involves substantial funding for the investigation and prosecution of offenses involving violence against women.
Democratic New Jersey Assemblyman Joseph Cryan just announced his intention to introduce new legislation that would mandate harsher penalties for those convicted of charges related to domestic violence in New Jersey. Whether or not the proposed bill is ultimately enacted into law remains to be seen; however, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office continues to defend its decision in the Rice case.
To view the NJ.com article in its entirety, access the following link: Ray Rice video: Prosecutor’s office says ‘decision was correct’ not seek jail time for Rice