So you just got arrested or charged for the first time in your adult life. You probably are wondering what will happen next.
- Will you be convicted?
- Will you have to plead “Guilty”?
- Will you have a criminal record?
- Will you go to JAIL?
Well, for you first-time offenders, I’ve got GREAT NEWS – The answer to each of these questions may very well be “NO”, “NO”, “NO” and “NO”!
Those of you arrested and/or charged for the first time may be able to avoid all those things by participating in a first-time offender program. There are 2 types of these programs in New Jersey:
- The “Conditional Discharge” Program
- Pre-Trial Intervention (otherwise known as “PTI”)
What Are These First-Time Offender Programs?
The law in New Jersey recognizes that even good, decent, law-abiding people such as you sometimes make mistakes. And because of that the lawmakers in New Jersey decided that you deserve a chance to prove that it was indeed a one-time thing. That “chance” is called either a Conditional Discharge or Pre-Trial Intervention or what is commonly known as “PTI”.
The programs are very similar. In fact, they’re almost identical.
If you’re accepted into either program you’ll be placed on probation for a period of time, usually 1 year. Some examples of the things you’ll be required to do during that time: you’ll have to make regular fine payments, perhaps submit to random urine drug screens, take a drug/alcohol abuse evaluation and comply with any recommended follow-up treatment, repay any money or the value of shoplifted items that you are alleged to have stolen, among other things.
Why Are There 2 “Almost Identical” Programs?
There are 2 “almost identical” programs because one program, Conditional Discharge, deals only with disorderly persons offenses, otherwise known as misdemeanors, while the other, PTI, deals with indictable offenses, otherwise known as felonies.
Disorderly Persons Offenses (Misdemeanors)
If you’re charged with any type of disorderly persons drug-related offense (a misdemeanor), then you are eligible to participate in the Conditional Discharge Program. The most common drug-related disorderly persons offenses are possession of marijuana (under 50 grams) and possession of paraphrenailia.
NOTE: For non-drug related disorderly persons offenses, such as shoplifting or other theft-type offenses, you could be eligible for something called a Conditional Dismissal. This program is virtually identical to the Conditional Discharge program.
Indictable Offenses (Felonies)
PTI is available for certain first-time felony offenders. There are four classifications of felonies: 1st degree; 2nd degree; 3rd degree; and 4th degree. First-degree crimes are the most serious and 4th degree the least serious. Generally, a person will not be eligible for PTI if charged with 1st or 2nd degree offenses. However, most 3rd and 4th degree offenders will be eligible to participate in PTI.
NOTE: Unlike the Conditional Discharge Program, PTI is available to people charged with offenses other than drug-related offenses, such as theft.
Should You Apply For One of These First-Time Offender Programs?
The best answer that I could give you at this time is “Maybe”.
Because that decision should only be made after your lawyer has had time to review all the evidence against you. Only then can he/she make a determination as to whether you should enter into one of the programs.