I often have clients ask me about the difference between Pre-Trial Intervention (known as “PTI”) and a Conditional discharge. Both programs are diversionary programs in New Jersey. They are typically only available to first time offenders, those individuals who have little to no contact with the criminal justice system and no criminal record.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) is available at the Superior Court or County level and deals with a diversion from an indictable criminal offense. If you are eligible (meaning you have little to no prior criminal record and you are not charged with a 1st or 2nd degree crime), you can fill out an application for the program and you will be interviewed by the probation department. They will ask you questions regarding your background, family history, employment, any drug or alcohol issues, etc. The PTI application will then be considered by the PTI review board and you will be accepted or rejected from the program. If you are accepted, the county prosecutor’s office will then review the application and accept or reject you from the program. If you are accepted, you will be placed on a period of probation from one (1) to (3) years and the judge will sign an Order of Suspension which keeps your charges pending during the probationary period. If you are rejected, you can file an appeal to a Superior Court judge claiming that the prosecutor’s office “abused their discretion” in rejecting you from the program. Once you are accepted into PTI, as long as you stay out of trouble and avoid any charges during your probation, the charges will be dismissed at the end of the probationary period. You will have no criminal record. This is your one “get out of jail free” card: PTI and a conditional discharge can only be used once in New Jersey. Thus, if you have had PTI before, you can’t get a conditional discharge or get into PTI again. Similary, if you have had a conditional discharge before, you are not eligible for PTI or another conditional discharge. The only record after you successfully complete PTI is a record of the arrest. This record can be expunged from your record six (6) months after you complete PTI.
A conditional discharge is available at both the Superior Court and Municipal Court levels in New Jersey but it is most communly utlilized in Municipal Court. This diversionary program is available for certain minor drug offenses (such as simple possession of marijuana (under 50 grams) or possession of drug paraphernalia). If you have never been convicted of a drug charge in New Jersey or any other State, you are typically eligible for a conditional discharge (known as a “CD”). The Municipal prosecutor will look at your criminal case history (“CCH”) to determine if you are eligible (no prior drug convictions and you have not used PTI or a CD before). If you are eligible, you will be placed on probation for six (6) months or one (1) year, depending on the judge. As long as you stay out of trouble, the charges will be dismissed at the end of the probationary period. Just like with PTI, the only record will be of the arrest. This arrest can be expunged six (6) months after you successfully complete probation.