A “conditional discharge” in New Jersey is a sentence passed by a court whereby the defendant is not punished, provided they comply with certain conditions. In these cases, there is no jail time, no courtroom trial, no guilty plea and no criminal record created. If a defendant successfully completes the requirements, the initial charges are dismissed entirely; but if he violates the supervisory conditions, the original charges are reinstated. These offenses can included possession of marijuana under 50 grams in violation of NJSA 2C:35-10a(4), possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of NJSA 2C:36-2 and certain prescription drug charges under NJSA 2C:35-10.5.
First-time marijuana offenders in New Jersey may be eligible for this conditional discharge. The conditional discharge is a “diversionary” program designed to give defendants alternatives to traditional criminal justice processes. The goal is to give first-time offenders who have committed a minor offense an opportunity to turn their lives around, foster rehabilitation and future success by providing appropriate penalties without having the offense become a part of their permanent criminal record.
New Jersey Conditional Discharge Law (N.J.S.A. 2C36A-1)
Marijuana possession offenses in New Jersey are very common; however, that doesn’t mean they are easily dismissed. Marijuana laws are serious and come with consequences including jail time, license suspension and hefty fines. Fortunately, New Jersey offers conditional discharge for the first offense.
Under this law, conditional dismissal is not available to any person who has any prior disorderly persons, misdemeanor or felony convictions. In addition, the applicant cannot have previously participated in a conditional discharge, conditional dismissal, or supervisory treatment program such as a pretrial intervention program. The following situations will act as disqualifiers for entry into Conditional Discharge in New Jersey:
- 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;
- Any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense under chapter 35 or 36 of the Criminal Code.
After taking into consideration the eligibility criteria, the defendant’s criminal history and the prosecutor’s recommendation, the court may approve the defendant’s participation in the conditional dismissal program and place the defendant under a probation monitoring status. The program typically consists of probation lasting up to three years and is accompanied by terms and conditions including random drug testing, counseling and driver’s license suspensions. If all of the conditions are met throughout the probation period, the original charges will be dismissed and no criminal conviction will appear on record. It’s important to note though, that the conditional discharge does not automatically remove an arrest record. That must be done in a separate expungement proceeding.
Our Attorneys Can Help You Obtain a Conditional Discharge in NJ
Villani & DeLuca, P.C. provides expert drug defense lawyers for clients in Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey against all manner of drug offense charges. Our experienced attorneys will aggressively defend your interests. Carmine R. Villani, Esq., founding partner of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., is a former Municipal Prosecutor and is an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Mr. Villani represents all clients with superior criminal defense representation.
We can help ascertain whether or not your case is eligible in NJ for conditional discharge – and if it is in your best interests to pursue it. If so, our defense lawyers will help you through the process and increase your chances of successfully obtaining a conditional dismissal.
Find Out If You Qualify for a Conditional Discharge
If you live in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey and find yourself facing a first-time drug offense we may be able to help you get a conditional discharge pending the facts of your case. Contact Villani & DeLuca’s knowledgeable conditional discharge lawyers in NJ for your free consultation today by filling out the form on the right or calling us at 732-965-3350. We are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.