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Lack of Uniformity in the New Jersey Conditional Discharge Program

New Jersey provides several diversionary programs for first-time offenders: Pre-Trial Intervention (at the Superior Court Level); Conditional Discharge (for first-time marijuana cases at the municipal court level); and the Conditional Dismissal Program (for disorderly persons offenders at the municipal court level)

I have enrolled hundreds of clients in the Conditional Discharge Program. It's a great way to get your "free pass" for a small marijuana case like having a joint in your car, or being found in possession of small quantity of pot. I would say that in roughly 100% of my cases, the judge imposes a 12-month probationary term right in court once we determine the defendant's eligibility. However, as with most things in life, nothing is for certain...

In Bergen County, there is a variation on the norm which requires one extra court appearance for the defendant and their attorney. In Bergen County municipal courts, a defendant "applies" for this program once eligibility is confirmed. Also unique to Bergen is that a $75.00 application fee is imposed. Personally, I think this is unfair because once enrolled in the program by the court, the defendant must pay nearly $900 in "fees." The defendant fills out an application in court which is then forwarded to the county probation department for approval. Once approved, the defendant and their lawyer must go back to court to be "accepted."

The good news is that most Bergen judges will put the defendant into the program for only 6 months, instead of the usual 12. This great for two reasons: 1) the client is finished with probation in half the time; and 2) the client is then eligible for an expungement six months earlier than normal.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious criminal offense, the time to speak with a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense lawyer is now. I have dedicated the The Law Offices of Christopher G. Porreca, P.C. to protecting the rights and interests of the accused and have consistently provided favorable results for my clients.

Start exploring your defense options with a dedicated legal advocate by your side. Call my firm at 973.577.7203 today.

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