New Jersey’s “diversionary programs” may allow you to avoid criminal penalties for a crime, get charges dismissed, and keep your criminal record clean. There are different programs that apply in different situations, and it is important to understand the program you should apply to and which programs you qualify for. The three primary diversionary programs in New Jersey are Pre-Trial Intervention, Conditional Discharge, and Conditional Dismissal, which each apply to different types of crimes. If you or a loved one was charged with a crime and has no prior criminal record, talk to our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for help with your case.
What is Pre-Trial Intervention in New Jersey?
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) is designed to help people accused of crimes in New Jersey avoid harsh penalties. First offenders can apply to PTI to eventually get their charges dismissed and avoid some of the harshest penalties, like jail time and a criminal record of conviction. This program is only available to people who have committed serious offenses.
It seems backward that PTI would only be available to serious offenders, but it’s true; PTI is only available for people charged with an “indictable crime.” These crimes are similar to “felonies” in other states and consist of any crime charged as a “fourth degree crime” through “first degree crime.”
To qualify for PTI, you must be charged with a qualifying crime, and this must be your first time using PTI. PTI is not available for crimes involving domestic violence, abuse of public office, or certain other offenses. If you have a record of other convictions for serious offenses, it may also hurt your chances of applying. The specifics of your offense may also prohibit you from joining PTI, such as if your offense was incredibly serious or violent. In any case, you only get one chance to use PTI, and you cannot apply to PTI again if you already used it once.
During PTI, you will be ordered to be supervised as if you were on probation, complete courses and activities aimed at rehabilitation, and pay fines court costs, and PTI fees. As part of the supervision, you must remain free from additional crimes, and you may need to follow other requirements (such as complying with drug testing).
One step in applying to PTI is often to enter a conditional guilty plea. This plea will not be activated unless you violate the terms of the PTI program. Failing to follow the terms often means the guilty plea will be entered, and you can face sentencing for the original charges.
What is NJ’s Conditional Discharge Program?
Conditional Discharge – not to be confused with Conditional Dismissal – is a diversionary program for minor drug offenses. Like PTI, you may be required to enter a conditional guilty plea, but completing all requirements can have the charges dropped. Also, like PTI, you can only take advantage of Conditional Discharge one time.
The core difference between Conditional Discharge and PTI is what crimes they apply to. While PTI is available only for more serious crimes, Conditional Discharge is available only for minor drug crimes. Less serious than “indictable offenses” in New Jersey are offenses classified as “disorderly persons offenses.” These crimes and the lower “petty disorderly persons offenses” are similar to misdemeanors in other states and are punished by no more than 6 months in jail.
Conditional Discharge is only available for disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses involving drugs. Possession of a small amount of marijuana is one of the most common drug crimes for Conditional Discharge.
Conditional Discharge vs. Conditional Dismissal in NJ
Conditional Discharge has been around for years, but it only applies to drug offenses. In 2014, New Jersey introduced conditional dismissal programs that apply more broadly to disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses not involving drugs.
Conditional Dismissal allows defendants charged with less serious offenses to perform community service, pay fines, and attend classes instead of facing criminal penalties. These programs are usually available for cases handled at the municipal court level and may seem less formal than Conditional Discharge or PTI programs. The classes and programs used are aimed at helping defendants manage things like anger or drug abuse and help them avoid committing future crimes. This program is often helpful for minor charges that can carry jail time and significant fines, such as disorderly conduct or simple assault.
Conditional Dismissal is available primarily for first-time offenders, meaning that you cannot apply if you already have a criminal record. Like the other programs, you cannot apply if you previously took advantage of this or one of the other diversionary programs.
Atlantic City Criminal Lawyer Offering Free Consultations for PTI and CD Applicants
If you or a loved one was charged with a first-time offense, talk to our criminal defense lawyers in Cape May about your opportunities for applying to conditional release and pretrial diversion programs that can help get your charges dismissed and criminal record expunged. To schedule your free consultation, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.