First time Offenders in New Jersey
Drug crimes are considered serious offenses in the state of New Jersey. Even first-time offenders can find themselves in prison. Fortunately, New Jersey has implemented alternative sentencing programs that benefit first-time offenders.
If you have never before been charged with a drug-related offense, you may qualify for New Jersey’s specifically designed alternative sentencing programs. The programs, better known as “diversionary programs,” allow first-time offenders to avoid conviction upon completion of program requirements. The goal of diversionary programs is to prevent repeat offenses. Although first-time offenders will not serve time in jail, they will be “punished” through the program’s requirements.
Conditional Discharge is one of New Jersey’s first-offender diversionary programs. Under conditional discharge, first-time offenders are convicted and then typically sentenced to one year of probation. The drug conviction is expunged after the offender completes his or her probation requirements without receiving any additional infractions. (Even a traffic violation may jeopardize one’s conditional discharge.)
Conditional discharge is left to the court’s discretion. The judge will evaluate the facts of the case and determine whether or not conditional discharge is merited. A first-time offender is not required to use conditional discharge. However, a first-time offender should be aware that he or she is only afforded one conditional discharge. Therefore, it is wise that the offender consults a South Jersey lawyer regarding his or her case and the best course of action.
New Jersey also allows offenders to elect Pre-Trial Intervention (“PTI”). The focus of PTI is rehabilitation. Offenders admitted into PTI can bypass the courts and criminal proceedings, avoiding potential prison time and a permanent record.
Offenders must meet specific requirements before being admitted into PTI, including:
- Be a first-time offender
- Charged with an indictable offense
- Having never been previously admitted into PTI
- Having never been granted a conditional discharge
Again, the goal of PTI is rehabilitation. A court must determine that PTI will help deter you from future criminal activity. A court is better enabled to make such a determination if you show a desire to be rehabilitated.
An offender may be placed into PTI for 1-3 years; the time varies case by case. While in PTI, an offender is expected to successfully complete the program’s requirements. An offender may be required to attend some of the following:
- Drug-Abuse Prevention Education
- Employment Training and Placement
- Supervised Probation
Successful completion of PTI will result in the conviction being expunged. An offender who fails to successfully complete PTI will return to the criminal justice system, have his or her conviction instated, and face jail time, fines, and a criminal record.
Call 856-227-2434 today for a free consultation.
You have alternatives to criminal proceedings if you are a first-time drug offender. Schedule your free consultation today and see how John C. Iannelli, Attorney at Law, can help you best resolve charges against you.