Newark, NJ-Last month as reported by the Press Of Atlantic City, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a program that expands the diversionary program administered by the municipal court, giving some individuals the opportunity to keep their records clear of a criminal charge.
Although disorderly person’s offenses are considered minor, a conviction can still result in a jail term of six months and thousands of dollars in fines. A conviction also leaves the offender with a criminal record which cannot be expunged for five years.
The reworked conditional dismissal program, also referred to as Municipal Court PTI, is slated to take effect in the early 2014 and will apply to cases that occur on or after that date. Certain individuals, who are charged with disorderly person’s offenses excluding drug-related offenses, will be given the chance to participate in a year-long probationary monitoring program. Upon successful completion of the program, an individual will emerge with a clean criminal record.
Some drug offenders are eligible for other diversionary programs, which also allow the offender to exit with a clean criminal record, but are not part of the new conditional dismissal program. Additionally, individuals charged with more serious offenses including domestic violence, animal cruelty or gang-related crimes are not eligible.
Individuals who have participated in a conditional discharge or other diversionary programs cannot participate in the new program.
Candidates for the new diversionary program are carefully screened and must meet eligibility requirements. Also, entry into the program requires that the offender enter a conditional guilty plea to the disorderly person’s offense, pay a $75 fee, and commit no other offense while in the program.
The new program differs from other pre-trial diversionary programs in that it requires the defendant to enter a guilty plea. Similar programs do not require the defendant to enter a guilty plea so it is important to speak with a Newark criminal defense attorney before deciding whether to participate.
Even though disorderly persons offenses are considered minor, having a conviction can adversely affect numerous aspects of an individual’s life. A conviction can affect a legal immigrant’s status and lead to their deportation. State workers, doctors, nurses, attorneys, pharmacists or stock brokers could lose their jobs or professional licenses if convicted. If a person happens to be convicted of more serious crime in the future, they can be given a severe sentence if they have a previous disorderly person’s conviction.
The new program gives has the added benefit of freeing up the municipal court calendars and will potentially free up future court logjams.
The new law gives many individuals who have been charged with a minor offense the chance to opportunity to with a clean record. However, before you make any legal decision about how you want to proceed with a disorderly person’s offense, you should consult with a Newark criminal defense attorney.
For non U.S. citizens, entering a guilty plea and entering a conditional dismissal program WILL still be considered a criminal conviction for immigration purposes. Even though a successful completion of the program will not result in a criminal history under New Jersey law for potential employers, under federal immigration law the result will still be considered a conviction.
I have a comprehensive understanding of New Jersey criminal statutes and the effects a guilty plea will have on your life and immigration status. After evaluating your case, I can recommend the best way to proceed with your disorderly person’s offense or other criminal offenses. Contact my Newark office to discuss your case and determine if a diversionary program is the best course of action for you or if you will better benefit from a court trial.