New Jersey Conditional Discharge Program
Trusted Criminal Defense Lawyer Helps Eligible Clients Gain Access to the Conditional Discharge Program in Camden County, Burlington County and Throughout NJ
The conditional discharge program in New Jersey is designed to help first-time offenders charged with relatively minor drug-related offenses avoid a formal criminal record. Instead of formal prosecution and trial, if you are eligible for the conditional discharge program you will enter a probationary period where you must satisfy certain conditions in order to complete the program. Once you successfully complete the conditions attached to the conditional discharge program over a period of time that can last between one and three years, the charges against you will be dismissed so that you can move forward with your life without the fear of disclosing a criminal background every time you apply for a job, housing or even a loan.
If you think that this sounds appealing, you aren’t alone. Our skilled drug charge lawyer can help you evaluate whether you are eligible for conditional discharge and whether it is the best option in your case. We will also advocate on your behalf through the process of applying to the judge and prosecution, as admittance is not automatic even if you are eligible. If you would like to explore the conditional discharge option, have questions about the program or need help in negotiating a more serious drug charge down to a lesser offense to gain eligibility, call or contact our office today for a free consultation to see how we can help with your conditional discharge case today.
The Basics of Eligibility for New Jersey’s Conditional Discharge Program
The conditional discharge program in New Jersey allows certain defendants to avoid formal prosecution for minor drug charges if the charge is a disorderly persons offense. If the initial charge was an indictable offense, conditional discharge may remain a possibility if we are able to negotiate a reduced charge so that the case is handled at the municipal court level. Otherwise, in order to qualify, you must satisfy the following additional criteria:
- You have no prior drug convictions in any state (i.e., you are a first-time offender),
- You have never before participated in a diversionary program, even if that program was not the conditional discharge program,
- You are not a danger to the community,
- You must continue to satisfy the conditions imposed for the entire probationary term—otherwise, the conditional dismissal will be terminated, and your case will go back to the court system.
More serious drug charges, such as those involving large quantities or those that involve distribution or manufacture of drugs, will usually not qualify for the program. The most common drug charges that render first-time offenders eligible for conditional discharge include:
- Simple possession of marijuana,
- Possession of drug paraphernalia,
- Certain prescription drug crimes.
Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Helps Clients Participating in Conditional Discharge Keep Their Driver’s Licenses in Camden County, NJ
While participation in conditional discharge has substantial benefits, participants also must accept certain burdens imposed as a condition for participating in the program. Specifically, over the probationary period, successful completion of the conditional discharge program may require:
- Remaining arrest-free for the entire probationary period,
- Random drug and alcohol screening,
- Mandatory drug and/or alcohol counseling,
- Mental health counseling,
- Payment of court fees, restitution and other costs,
- Loss of your driver’s license for a minimum of six months and up to two years.
The potential for losing your driver’s license as a condition of participation in conditional discharge is often a deterrent for clients who would otherwise be eligible. Despite this, the law provides that the judge has discretion to suspend your license, but may make an exception if compelling circumstances warrant that exception.
At Gelman Law, LLC, we get to know our clients so that we can more fully understand how loss of your license will impact your life. In some cases, we may be able to make a compelling argument that an exception is warranted because you need your license for employment purposes, for example. While it is not always possible to retain your license, we will make every available argument to strongly advocate for your need to retain driving privileges during your probationary period.
Call Today to Schedule a Confidential Consultation to Explore the Option of Applying for Conditional Discharge in Your Burlington County Case
In many minor drug crime cases, the potential for jail time and monetary penalties, while serious, are relatively minor when compared to the lasting prospect of having to disclose your conviction to employers, landlords and even banks long after you have completed your punishment. However, not every drug charge has to result in a lasting formal criminal record. Call or contact our experienced Cherry Hill criminal defense lawyer so that we can begin advocating for your right to participate in the conditional discharge program today.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Conditional Discharge Program
FAQ: Do I have to plead guilty to the charges in order to be admitted to the conditional discharge program?
Yes, as a prerequisite to admission, you must admit guilt via a plea. If you have already been found guilty, we can advocate for conditional discharge at this stage. Despite this, no conviction will appear on your criminal record and you can even have the arrest expunged after completing the program. Actual innocence is, of course, always a factor that must be considered when determining whether conditional discharge is the right option for you—if we are able to make a strong case for your acquittal, conditional discharge may not be necessary.
FAQ: Can the conditional dismissal itself be expunged?
Yes. Six months after successful completion of the program, we can apply to have the conditional discharge itself expunged so that it won’t show up on a background check. Despite this, the criminal justice system itself will still have a record of your participation in the program, so that expungement of participation does not mean that you will become eligible to participate a second time in the future.