On September 6th, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill establishing a conditional dismissal program for cases concerning disorderly person offenses under municipal court jurisdiction. The new law, which creates a municipal version of Pre-Trial Intervention, will take effect January 4, 2014.
Previously, such interventions were only available for cases adjudicated at the Superior Court level, or drug offense cases heard in the municipal courts.
What is conditional dismissal?
As with Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) in the Superior Courts, the purpose of the new conditional dismissal program in the municipal courts is to allow defendants, typically first-time offenders, to seek rehabilitative services in an effort to prevent any future criminal behavior. These rehabilitative services serve as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice prosecution and penalization model, allowing dismissal of criminal charges if a defendant meets the conditions of the program.
In the words of the New Jersey State Judiciary, “PTI strives to solve personal problems which tend to result from the conditions that appear to cause crime, and ultimately, to deter future criminal or disorderly behavior by a defendant.”
Who is eligible for conditional dismissal?
According to Court Rules, conditional dismissal is designed for adult New Jersey residents (though other state residents may apply) who have been charged with a criminal or penal offense in a New Jersey criminal or municipal court.
The conditional dismissal program is not available to those charged with minor offenses (ones whose convictions would result in a suspended sentence without probation), or certain offenses, such as those involving domestic violence or driving under the influence of alcohol.
Generally, individuals with prior convictions are ineligible to participate. A defendant may not take advantage of PTI or any other first-time offender diversion program if he or she has previously participated in such a program; conditional dismissal can only be granted once with respect to any defendant.
What are the conditions of the municipal program?
Normally, supervision under the program lasts between one and three years and is based on certain conditions which can include drug testing, community service, penalties and fines, and compliance with recommended treatment programs.
If a defendant complies with the guidelines of the program to the satisfaction of the court, the original charges are dismissed and he is left with no criminal record. If a defendant does not comply, he will be terminated from the program and the case will proceed to trial.
How can I apply for the conditional dismissal program?
In order to apply for conditional dismissal in the municipal courts, you must be fingerprinted and pay a $75 fee to the Municipal Court Diversion Fund, which is used to offset the costs of intake and monitoring services that the conditional dismissal program entails. The fee may be waived, however, if you lack sufficient financial means.
Upon application, it is in the court’s discretion to determine if you should be approved to participate in the program. In making its determination, the court will consider factors such as the nature of the offense, your background, and the interests of the victim and the public.
To see if your case qualifies, you should contact a New Jersey criminal attorney that has experience with first-time offender diversion programs. Your lawyer will file your application and guide you through the entire process.
For more information about conditional dismissal and a free legal consultation, call The Rosenblum Law Firm today at 888-815-3649.