Following the rejection, James J. Saunders, 23, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault by auto and was sentenced to two years probation, required to have a drug/alcohol evaluation and comply with any recommended treatment and lost his driving privileges for seven months.
He appealed the ruling of the two-judge appellate panel, which found no abuse of discretion in turning down Saunders’ request to enter the Gloucester County’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program on Thursday.
The rejection was based on a rule that recommends the rejection for crimes of violence or threat of violence to others.
Saunders was driving his 2008 Acura on Dec. 16, 2011 on Hurfville Road in Deptford when he skidded and flipped over, injuring himself and both his passengers. Saunders was a college student at that point and had just left the Landmark bar in Glassboro before the crash, prompting police to test his blood alcohol level, which was .16, twice the legal definition of intoxication.
Saunders’ decision to to drive while drunk “clearly represents a threat of violence, “ wrote the Criminal Division Manager for the intervention program. An Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor concurred.
Saunders contended there was not sufficient consideration of his good prior driving record, his educational achievement and numerous character references.
“The state appeals court has set a high standard for overturning an intervention program rejection,” Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Joseph Enos wrote in a legal brief opposing the appeal.
He added that all 17 factors governing admission to the program were considered
Saunders “committed an offense of serious criminality and an assaultive nature” that justified his rejection, said Enos. Without “proper deterrence,” such conduct “will exacerbate the social problem of drunk driving,” he concluded.