While being charged with a crime like assault for the first time can be a frightening experience, there are ways in which you might avoid the full extent of possible legal penalties. Diversion programs for first-time offenders might be available.
Diversion programs are designed to divert certain defendants from traditional judicial remedies in favor of less punitive and more rehabilitative outcomes. They also allow courts to conserve resources for more serious cases. In New Jersey, pre-trial intervention might be available for certain first-time offenders in the Superior Court system. Similarly, a conditional dismissal program may be available to certain defendants in the municipal court system. Generally, these programs are available to first-time offenders, and only certain charges may be eligible. Talk to our team to determine if one of these programs is right for your case. While these programs often take longer to complete than a typical criminal case, many defendants walk away with their clean records intact.
To get an evaluation of your claims for no charge from our NJ criminal defense attorneys, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Applying for Pre-Trial Intervention for First-Time Assault Offenders in NJ
In New Jersey, the main diversion program in the criminal justice system is referred to as pre-trial intervention. Pre-trial intervention is spelled out under N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-12(a). According to this statute, pre-trial intervention aims to provide supervision and treatment options rather than punitive sanctions to certain offenders. Many defendants would respond better to this kind of program than to a term of imprisonment.
Ideally, the program helps offenders avoid committing future crimes, thus reducing recidivism and alleviating strain on the justice system. Our NJ criminal defense lawyers can help determine if pre-trial intervention is a good option.
Procedures for pre-trial intervention are described under N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-13(b). Under the law, if you are admitted to the program, your charges are set aside or held in an inactive status pending your completion of the program requirements. Keep in mind that the charges do not disappear because you enter the program. However, they could if you play your cards right.
Many people are in the program for about a year, but the law allows the judge to extend the program for up to 3 years. Supervisory treatment is similar to probation. You may be assigned a probation officer to check in with, and you might have to comply with various court-imposed requirements, like avoiding drugs and alcohol, performing community service, and taking certain education courses.
If you complete the pre-trial intervention program, your charges will go from being set aside to being dismissed. In the process, you avoid having to go through a trial at all.
Conditional Dismissal for First-Time Assault Defendants in NJ
Another program you might qualify for if you are a first-time offender for an alleged assault is conditional dismissal. This is more or less the same or similar to the pre-trial intervention program mentioned before, except conditional dismissal is for cases in the municipal court system.
The main difference here is the court system with jurisdiction over your case. While pre-trial intervention is typically reserved for the Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over many criminal cases, conditional dismissal is reserved for the Municipal Courts, which tend to hear less serious criminal cases.
If your assault charges are considered indictable crimes, you will likely be in Superior Court and can look into pre-trial intervention. If your charges are less serious and charged as disorderly persons offenses, you will likely end up in Municipal Court and can take advantage of conditional dismissal.
Considering that assault charges involve a violent offense, it is more likely that you are charged with an indictable crime and will be in Superior Court. As such, conditional dismissal is a possible yet less likely option for first-time assault offenders. Even so, talk to your lawyer about which diversion program applies to your case.
Who Can and Cannot Apply for a Diversion Program for First-Time Assault Offenders in NJ?
You must meet specific eligibility criteria to participate in one of these diversion programs. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-13.1(1), you may only participate in these programs if you are truly a first-time offender. Anyone previously convicted of a petty disorderly persons offense, disorderly persons offense, or indictable crime may be ineligible. Additionally, you must not have previously participated in a diversionary program that helped you avoid a conviction.
On top of all that, certain criminal offenses are excluded from these diversion programs even if the defendant is otherwise eligible. A defendant is not eligible if the assault is connected with any of the following categories of offenses
- Organized crime or gang activities
- A criminal business
- Breach of public trust by public employee
- Domestic violence
- Offenses against an elderly, disabled, or minor victim
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Animal cruelty
- Certain drug offenses
Even if you are eligible under the above criteria, you might not automatically be admitted into the diversion program. The court may consider many factors when deciding what happens. For example, the nature of the alleged assault, the motivation and age of the defendant, the needs of the victim, how possible codefendants might be affected, and many other factors the court deems relevant.
When to Contact an Attorney About a Diversion Program for First-Time Assault Offenders in NJ
People who enter diversion programs usually do so before their trial is scheduled to begin. If your trial has already started or has finished, a diversion program is likely off the table. It is best to talk to your attorney about the possibility of a diversion program as soon as you meet with them. Time is of the essence, and the sooner we discuss diversion programs with the court, the better.
It would be best to talk to your lawyer about pre-trial intervention or conditional dismissal before you are even sure of the charges. After an arrest, the police and prosecutors might take time to determine the charges they want to press. Not only that, but the charges they want to press do not always stick once you get in front of a judge. Even so, talk to your lawyer about a diversion program before the charges are official so you can be as prepared as possible.
Speak to Our NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers About Diversion Programs
To get an evaluation of your claims for no charge, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 and talk to our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers.