NEW JERSEY'S TICKET TO A CRIMINAL DISMISSAL-THE CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE
New Jersey, like most states, has diversionary programs for certain first time criminal offenders. The two diversion programs in New Jersey are the Conditional Discharge (also know as "Chapter 36A" or "Section 36") and the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (also known as "PTI").
What is a Conditional Discharge?
The Conditional Discharge program is a probationary type, diversion program that allows for the dismissal of all charges upon successful completion of the program. Like most diversion programs, the theory behind the program is that individuals with clean records should, when charged with minor criminal offenses, be given a chance to avoid the stigma associated with a criminal conviction. See N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1.
What Criminal Charges are Eligible for Treatment Under Section 36?
In order to be eligible for a Conditional Discharge the criminal defendant must be charged with a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) and the charge must be a drug related charge. The most common types of criminal charges associated with a Conditional Discharge in New Jersey are possession of marijuana under 50 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. All of these charges are disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) and they are drug related offenses.
Who is Eligible for Chapter 36A Treatment in New Jersey?
While most diversion programs are directed towards individuals with clean criminal records, the Conditional Discharge program is slightly different. First, as noted above, Chapter 36A applies only to drug related disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors). Felony or indictable charges and non-drug related charges automatically disqualify an individual from consideration. Next, while ideally the applicant should have a pristine, crime free background, Section 36 merely states that the applicant cannot have received a Conditional Discharge or Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) before and the applicant cannot have been found guilty of any drug related offense in New Jersey or any drug related offense in any other State or under Federal Law in order to be eligible for a Conditional Discharge.
What Happens Upon Acceptance into the Conditional Discharge Program?
Once an applicant is accepted into the Conditional Discharge Program, he or she undergoes supervision by probation for a period of as little as 6 months to a maximum of 3 years. If the defendant complies with the terms and conditions of the Conditional Discharge program, after the designated period of supervision has passed, all criminal charges are dismissed.
Section 36 also requires that as a condition of supervisory treatment that the court suspend the defendant's driver's license for a period of not less than 6 months and not more than 2 years. The license suspension can be waived by the court if the court finds that such a suspension will result in extreme hardship.
Once the Conditional Discharge Program Has Been Successfully Completed are all Criminal Charges Expunged?
The simple answer is no. Under New Jersey law, unlike some other states, no charges are automatically expunged. After the Conditional Discharge program has been successfully completed, while an order is generated dismissing the charges, the original charge and the ultimate disposition remain on the person's record. The expungement process in New Jersey is a separate legal proceeding.
Keep in mind that nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice. 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 attorneys at Brickfield & Donahue at (201) 488-7707 to set up a free case evaluation and consultation.