Under current New Jersey law, people charged with certain minor drug crimes (possession of small amounts of marijuana/hashish, loitering to commit a CDS offense, etc.) could avoid criminal penalties and a conviction by entering a conditional discharge program at the Municipal Court where they were charged. Under a new law, S-2588, which was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on September 9, 2013, this program is expanding to allow for certain other, non-drug offenders to also enter the conditional discharge program.Related: Criminal Law, Drugs, Crimes in Municipal Court, Assaults.
2C:36A-1. Conditional discharge for certain first offenses; expunging of records.
The statute allows first time offenders who are charged with certain disorderly persons offenses to enter a conditional discharge program. It is only available to people who have never been convicted of any offenses anywhere, and who have never entered any other type of conditional discharge program, PTI, or other diversionary programs. In addition, conditional dismissal will not be available if the offense for which the person is charged involved: organized criminal or gang activity; a continuing criminal business or enterprise; a breach of the public trust by a public officer or employee; domestic violence; an offense against an elderly, disabled or minor person; an offense involving driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug; animal cruelty laws; or any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense under chapter 35 or 36 of the Criminal Code (drugs and drug paraphernalia). However, a person who is charged with a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense involving drugs or drug paraphernalia may apply for a conditional discharge.
Previously, the law only allowed admission into the program for very minor drug offenses. Also, Pre-Trial Intervention (“PTI”) has long been available to many people charged with indictable felonies. PTI is a similar type of program for first time offenders where the criminal charges are dismissed upon completion of the program. However, those first-time offenders charged with minor non-drug related disorderly persons offenses, like simple assault, harassment, petty theft, etc., were not able to enter any type of program and created a backlog in the court systems.
The conditional discharge program is similar to probation, but usually has fewer obligations. If a person is admitted into the conditional discharge program, they must report to a probation officer. The term usually lasts 12 months, but could last for up to 36 months. There are modest fines/penalties that the person must pay. If the complete the program, then the criminal charges are dismissed and there is no record of any kind of criminal conviction. That is the big advantage to applying for a conditional discharge.
If you violate the terms of the conditional discharge program, then the criminal charges will be reinstated. Usually, this means that the prosecutor will seek a conviction at trial, or you have already pleaded guilty, a criminal sentence.
The sponsor, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset) said:
This initiative will give a broader range of first-time offenders who have committed a minor offense an opportunity to turn their lives around,” Bateman said… The program will help foster participants’ rehabilitation and future success by giving them appropriate penalties without having the offense be a part of their permanent criminal record.
The law goes into effect 120 days after signing, which is approximately December 9, 2013.
If you have any question or you or a loved one were accused of a crime, please do not hesitate to contact us for a 100% free consultation.
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