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Can I Receive a Conditional Discharge?

January 11, 2016 | Posted In Criminal Law - Drugs

Some criminal charges may be eligible for conditional discharge in New Jersey, and for first-time drug offenders who have otherwise clean records, it’s worth researching to discover if their sentences or your charges may be affected.

Conditional discharge is typically offered to people who have committed their first minor drug offense, in the hopes that they will use the opportunity to undergo rehabilitation and/or drug treatment. The option is intended to break the cycle of addiction and reform habits caused by drug use or first-time abuse of an illegal substance.

What Does Conditional Discharge Mean?

A conditional discharge is a diversionary program that supports rehabilitation and treatment instead of strict penalties. Conditional discharges are granted in cases involving disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey Municipal Court, usually for drug possession or other minor drug-related offenses. Defendants are eligible for the discharge program if they have not been previously convicted of a drug crime in any state, or if they have never been enrolled in a pre-trial intervention program or a conditional discharge program before.  

A conditional discharge program will require an eligible enrollee to follow certain guidelines in order to remain eligible for the discharge. For a drug offense, if the defendant is accepted, he or she will have to undergo a period of supervision that typically lasts about a year, and submit to random drug tests for a period of up to three years. Additionally, he or she will have to enroll in a drug treatment program for rehabilitation.

If the defendant follows all of these requirements, he or she can have the criminal charges dismissed. Compliance includes passing every random drug test and avoiding arrest or involvement in criminal activity during the period of supervision. Once these requirements have been completed, the charges will be dismissed, meaning that the defendant will be cleared of all charges. Six months after the dismissal, the defendant can apply for expungement of all records relating to the arrest and the conditional discharge.

The equivalent of a conditional discharge is available for other non-drug offenses in municipal court. However, a guilty plea is required for those other types of offenses (one is not required for a drug offense). A successful completion of a diversionary program in all cases results in a dismissal of the charges.

Consider Your Options

If you have committed a first-time, minor offense and are eligible for a conditional discharge, you may have an opportunity to make up for your crimes through a rehabilitation program specifically designed to foster growth and learning.  For a first-time offender with no previous criminal history, this can be critical to your future. A criminal record makes it difficult to find work, and a criminal background can complicate any personal and professional relationships.

If you have the chance to get a charge dismissed through one of New Jersey’s first-time offender programs, you should weigh your options carefully. A New Jersey drug crime lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, can help you work through the requirements and application process, and can work with you to determine the best course of action. For more information about your case or the New Jersey conditional discharge program, contact a lawyer at HCK today.

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