Incarceration is undoubtably the biggest fear among any person charged with a criminal offense whether it be a robbery, marijuana possession, cocaine distribution, aggravated assault or a theft charge. Therefore, it is important to know that the New Jersey legislature has carved out exceptions for certain individuals who may be facing length prison sentences. The three major exceptions in New Jersey are the Conditional Discharge Program, the Pre Trial Intervention Program and Drug Court. Each of the aforementioned programs have there own specific set of requirements for determining eligibility but more importantly all of the three programs result in a complete avoidance of all incarceration. Listed below is a brief description of each program, including what defendants may be eligible.

The Conditional Discharge Program is a diversionary program in New Jersey, where in which if the defendant completes the program without issue, the then pending criminal charges will be dismissed. First, to be eligible for the conditional discharge program, the defendant must be charged with a drug offense (N.J.S.A. 2C:35 or N.J.S.A. 2C:36). In addition, the defendant may never have been previously convicted of a drug offense nor participated in a diversionary program, whether it be in this state or any other state. If eligible and the Judge / Prosecutor are convinced that the defendant deserves the opportunity to participate in the program, they will be placed on probation for a term of up to one (1) year. As stated earlier, so long as the Defendant completes the program without any issues, which in short means, not getting re-arrested and not failing any of the potential random drugs tests, the charges will be dismissed. This will help the defendant avoid a permanent criminal record.

The Pre Trial Intervention Program (“PTI”) is also a diversionary program in New Jersey and just like the conditional discharge program, if the defendant completes the program without issue the pending charges will be dismissed. PTI is similar to the conditional discharge program, as the major requirement for determining eligibility is that the defendant has never previously participated in a diversionary program. Unlike the conditional discharge program, there is no set rule for what type of charge the defendant must be faced with, however, the defendant must be charged with a indictable (felony) matter. With that being said, although there is no black and white rule for determining what types of offenses are allowed to participate in the program, there is an understanding that certain crimes typically are ineligible. Those used to be all violent offenses and drug distribution charges. Now of days, the prosecution only typically rejects serious violent offenses, such as robbery, aggravated assault, eluding, homicide and burglary but of course there is no blanket rule. An experienced criminal defense attorney can persuade the Judge and Prosecutor to allow the defendant the opportunity to participate in the program even if they are faced with one of the aforementioned crimes. If accepted, the Judge will place the defendant on probation for a specified time period (6 months – 3 years) with certain restrictions, the major ones being remain drug / arrest free. As previously stated, if the defendant completes the program as required the pending felony charges will be dismissed.

Drug Court is unlike the previous two programs, as it is not diversionary in the sense that the defendant will avoid a permanent criminal record if you successfully complete the program. However, if you do successfully complete Drug Court the defendant will avoid all potential incarceration, which is usually a very lengthy sentence. A defendant who is admitted into drug court must complete a high intensive five phases drug rehabilitation program to avoid the said lengthy prison sentence. The overall goal of this program is help drug addicts conquer their addictions. It in essence forces defendant’s into sobriety by holding the lengthy prison sentence over their heads. Typically, eligibility for drug court will revolve around not only the defendants prior record but also what they are currently charged with. A defendant usually has some type of drug related pending charges and traditionally can not have a violent prior criminal record. However, with that being said, the courts have become more relaxed over the years and if your attorney is able to convince the Judge that your prior violent criminal record stemmed from an addiction to either drugs or alcohol you may be admitted.

All of the aforementioned programs afford certain defendant’s an amazing opportunity to avoid what otherwise would be a lengthy prison sentence. The Law Offices of Marshall, Bonus, Proetta & Oliverhas been successfully helping individuals gain acceptance into all of the aforesaid programs in Bergen County for over fifteen years. If you or someone you know has any questions please contact any one of our Bergen County Offices for a free initial consultation.