New Jersey's Diversion Programs.
New Jersey, like most states, has diversionary programs for many first time criminal offenders. These programs allow for charges to be dismissed after a certain amount of time if the accused abides by certain terms and conditions and if the accused does not re-offend. Up until January 4, 2014, there were two basic types of diversionary programs in New Jersey at the adult level, Pre-Trial Intervention ("PTI") and the Conditional Discharge Program ("Section 36").
At the juvenile level (individuals under the age of 18), New Jersey has another diversion program commonly referred to as an "adjourned disposition" or a "period of adjustment." If a juvenile receives this type of diversion, after a specified period of time (usually from 6 months to 1 year) all charges are also dismissed.
Effective January 4, 2014, a new diversionary program was unveiled in New Jersey, the Conditional Dismissal Program. This program allows people charged with certain disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) to apply for diversionary treatment. Prior to the enactment of this law, the only disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses eligible for diversionary treatment were minor drug and drug like offenses.
What is new about the Conditional Dismissal Program?
The big criticism of New Jersey's adult diversionary programs prior to January 4, 2014 was that while Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) covered virtually all low grade indictable (felony) crimes, the only diversion program for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) - the Conditional Discharge Program - just covered minor drug and drug-like offenses. This meant that prior to January 4, 2014, if the first time offender was charged, for example, with the disorderly persons offense of lewdness, simple assault, shoplifting, harassment (or any other misdemeanor non-drug offense) he was not eligible for diversionary treatment. The Conditional Dismissal Program attempts to cure this glaring hole in our law.
What is the Effective Date of the Conditional Dismissal Program?
The Conditional Dismissal Program became effective on January 4, 2014. This diversion program covers certain disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) which occurred on or after January 4, 2014.
Am I Eligible for the Conditional Dismissal Program?
In order to be eligible for the Conditional Dismissal Program the applicant can not have any prior disorderly persons/petty disorderly persons (misdemeanor) or indictable (felony) convictions and the applicant can not have received diversionary treatment of any kind before (no PTI, no Conditional Discharge). In addition, the offense must have occurred on or after January 4, 2014.
Are There Any Disqualifiers for Entry Into the Conditional Dismissal Program?
In addition to the above situations, the following situations will act as disqualifiers for entry into the Conditional Dismissal Program:
- Organized crime or gang activity;
- A continuing criminal business or enterprise;
- Public officers or employees who breach the public trust;
- Domestic violence;
- Offenses against the elderly, disabled or a minor;
- Offenses involving Driving While Intoxicated;
- Offenses involving animal cruelty;
- Drug Offenses (these are already covered by the Conditional Discharge Program).
How long does the Conditional Dismissal Program Last?
Unlike the Conditional Discharge Program and the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, probationary supervision under the Conditional Dismissal Program lasts anywhere from 1 year to 2 years.
When Did the Conditional Dismissal Program Become Effective?
The Conditional Dismissal law became effective on January 4, 2014. Perhaps more importantly, however, the law applies only to those offenses which occur on or after January 4, 2014.
What this all means is that those people who have charges pending which occurred prior to January 4, 2014 can not avail themselves of this new law. However, this law fills a glaring hole in our diversionary system in New Jersey. Those individuals charged with offenses such as lewdness, simple assault, shoplifting, harassment, criminal mischief, theft and other minor criminal offenses will now potentially have the same diversionary opportunities as other first time offenders in New Jersey.
The Conditional Dismissal Program is new and complicated. This article is merely an overview of the law. Keep in mind that nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice. The law can and often does change. If you have a specific legal issue or problem, consult an attorney. If you have been arrested for any criminal charge in New Jersey and need professional advice, call one of the criminal defense attorneys at Brickfield & Donahue at (201) 488-7707 to set up a free case evaluation and consultation. Both Joseph R. Donahue and Paul B. Brickfield are Certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as Criminal Trial Attorneys and both lawyers have extensive experience in State, Municipal and Federal Courts throughout New Jersey.