New Jersey’s Expanded Conditional Discharge Program: More Breaks for First Time Offenders

New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, maintains pre-trial diversionary programs which let a person maintain a clean record despite being arrested and charged with a minor crime.

In Pennsylvania these pre-trial programs are known by the abbreviations ARD and AMP which stand for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition and Accelerated Misdemeanor Program respectively. In New Jersey the law previously allowed “conditional discharges” for only minor drug related offenses. The law did not allow conditional discharges for most non-drug offenses such as disorderly persons and petty disorderly person offenses.

The new law in New Jersey now falls under what is known as the “conditional dismissal” program. While it is similar to the conditional discharge program it covers non-drug related offenses. The conditional dismissal program, however, is not available to everyone. If you have previously received a conditional discharge or some type of other supervisory treatment program such as PTI – Pre-Trial Intervention you aren’t eligible for the conditional dismissal program in New Jersey. In addition, following crimes are not eligible for the conditional dismissal program:

  1. Crimes involving domestic violence
  2. Crimes against the elderly, disabled, or a minor person
  3. Crimes involving the driving or operating of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI)

Admission into the conditional dismissal program isn’t a guarantee and your lawyer must speak directly with the prosecutor regarding it. Admissions is based on a person’s criminal history and the court must still approve your participation in the program even if both your attorney and the prosecutor agree. When you are accepted into the program it is very important that you comply with the terms. If you fail to comply with the terms the court can enter either a judgement or conviction or reinstitute criminal proceedings (trial). The court will enter a judgement of conviction if it has accepted a plea of guilty as part of your admissions into the program. If the court accepts a plea of guilty as part of your admission into the program you are not entitled to a trial if you violate the terms of the program.

The judge will simply sentence you for the offense that you committed. If, however, you successfully complete the program all of the criminal charges are dismissed from your record. You can only receive the conditional dismissal program once. The cost of the program is $75.00 in addition to the cost of your attorney. The judge may also impose additional penalties but they can’t exceed the amount of the fine that would have been imposed had you been convicted of the offense. Once you complete the program the law in New Jersey provides that any arrest not resulting in a conviction pursuant to the conditional discharge or conditional dismissal program is expunged 6 months after the program is completed. Again, however, you must complete the program to get the expungement. If you have questions about criminal law and the constitution in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, call our office at (215) 240-73-7377 or email us at [email protected].  You may also want to read a copy of my books Commonwealth v. You or 5 Ways to 5 & Win Your Pennsylvania DUI Case.