New Jersey’s Conditional Discharge Program – Are you eligible?
Our criminal defense lawyers represent persons charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey maintain alternative trial options for first time offenders. While a person should never simply accept an alternative disposition program without first speaking to a criminal defense attorney about their options, these programs present good opportunities to achieve practically the same result as an acquittal at trial.
What is New Jersey’s Conditional Discharge Program
In New Jersey, the Conditional Discharge Program is sometimes an option for first time offenders. This program, similar to Pennsylvania’s ARD, provides a person the ability to have his or her charges withdrawn, and their criminal record expunged without the need for a criminal trial. New Jersey’s Conditional Discharge Program is unlike the State’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) and it is reserved for cases within the Municipal Court system graded as disorderly person offenses. The most common disorderly person offenses in Municipal Court are illegal drug possession cases. It would not include crimes, such as the unlawful possession of a gun or firearm under New Jersey’s Graves Act. There are situations, however, where drug cases are indictable offenses (crimes) in New Jersey, but are downgraded to Municipal Court. In these situations, a person is eligible for conditional discharge, provided that they meet the other requirements.
If a person is admitted to the Conditional Discharge Program, the eligible Defendant will enter a plea, but the Court will withhold final judgment of conviction and place the person on a reasonable period of probation, usually one-year. If the person completes probation without any issue, the charges are dismissed.
New Jersey Drunk Driving & Conditional Discharge
It is very important to understand that if you were charged with a driving while intoxicated offense (DWI), you are not eligible for the Conditional Discharge Program. The Prosecutor is not permitted to negotiate down DWI offenses in New Jersey. If charges are downgraded, the Prosecutor must inform the Court that he or she will not be able to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on some issue with the evidence usually brought to their attention by a criminal defense lawyer who has thoroughly reviewed the matter.
Indicatable Crimes and Conditional Discharges
If you’re charged with an indictable offense in New Jersey, a conditional discharge will not be an option, but your criminal defense lawyer may be able to have charges downgraded to Municipal Court where it could become an issue. For more information on New Jersey’s alternative programs to trial, please contact our law firm.
Does Pennsylvania have any Conditional Discharge programs like New Jersey
In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth offers programs such as Accelerated Rehabilitated Disposition (ARD), probation without verdict (Section 17). The ARD Program in Pennsylvania is typically reserved for non-violent offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI), but there are situations where a person can receive that program provided that the prosecution obtains the victims consent to the resolution.
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