If you have been charged with a first time disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, you may be eligible for diversionary programs, such as pretrial intervention or conditional discharge. The latter option is a program that allows defendants charged with certain drug offenses to have their charges dismissed after a one to three year probationary period. The court will impose certain conditions that must be met during this period, which can include random drug testing, substance abuse counseling and attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
How Do I Get a Conditional Discharge?
In order to be eligible for conditional discharge, a defendant must not have a previous conviction for a disorderly persons offense, and must not have been granted a previous pre-trial intervention or conditional discharge through any state or federal court.
You May Qualify for a Second Conditional Discharge…
While a conditional discharge is limited to one per person, you may still be able to apply for conditional discharge if your first and only prior offense was committed as a juvenile. A juvenile is defined as “any individual who is under the age of eighteen years” by the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice. Juvenile cases are handled by the family courts, although cases can be moved to adult court at the defendant's request or at the prosecutor's discretion. Even if your juvenile record was not expunged, the courts may consider your application for conditional discharge as long as you have no prior adult convictions, and your juvenile conviction was for a disorderly persons offense.
Requirements of the Conditional Discharge Program in NJ
Ultimately, a conditional discharge is granted at the judge's discretion, even if you meet all the basic requirements. In order to be considered for the program, you must submit an application to the municipal court that is handling your case. Along with the application, you will be required to pay numerous fees, which include a $45 application fee, $500 DEDR (drug enforcement and demand reduction) penalty, $33 for court costs, and $50 to the NJ State Police Laboratory.
If you are accepted into the program, you will be supervised by a probation officer for up to three years and have your driver's license suspended for a period of six months to two years. A judge may waive the license suspension if “the forfeiture of the person's right to operate a motor vehicle … will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available” (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-16). However, it is highly recommended that you obtain legal representation in order to argue a case for extreme hardship. License suspension is generally a mandatory penalty for drug offenders, so you will need to prove that there are circumstances compelling enough for the court to waive this requirement.
Local Conditional Discharge Lawyers
Such legal actions require the experience of a criminal attorney, who can ensure that your rights are fully protected, whether you are facing trial or seeking acceptance into a diversionary program. Prior to applying for conditional discharge, you should have a lawyer verify that you may be eligible for the program. A lawyer can also advise you about all of the available defense options for fighting your charges.
If you have been charged with a drug offense in New Jersey, please speak with NJ criminal defense attorney Carmine R. Villani, Esq. about your rights and options. As former municipal prosecutor and public defender for numerous municipalities throughout Ocean and Monmouth Counties, Mr. Villani is qualified to advise you on the best course of action for resolving your charges. Please call (732) 709-7757 to schedule a free consultation!