TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today released guidance addressing prosecutions of COVID-19 related offenses, which is designed to ensure that there is accuracy, uniformity and consistency by municipal prosecutors and in municipal courts throughout the state.
“While the vast majority of New Jersey residents followed the Governor’s Executive Orders and helped us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, and continue to do so, some did not,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We have a duty as law enforcement officers to bring violators to justice, and to do so in a way that ensures uniformity. We also have a responsibility to exercise discretion in the interests of justice, including to use diversion programs and community court if available. My guidance today advises municipal prosecutors on the best ways to achieve those important goals of uniformity and consistency, deterrence, and responsible discretion.”
The guidance emphasizes that no municipal prosecutor may adopt a categorical policy or practice of refusing to enforce COVID-19 related charges, but provides a significant number of options for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in individual cases to achieve the interests of justice. The guidance notes that a categorical policy of refusing to enforce such charges would be inappropriate because each charge had already been reviewed and approved by a designated county prosecutor or assistant prosecutor—as the Attorney General previously required—and also that such a policy would lead to disparate administration of these laws.