A Conditional Discharge is a diversionary program in New Jersey Municipal Courts that is similar to Pre-Trial Intervention. Unlike Pre-Trial Intervention, which is conducted on the county level and deals with more severe criminal charges, a conditional discharge is limited to minor drug offenses, which are disposed of on the Municipal level. If you apply and are accepted into the conditional discharge program, you will be placed on probation and, if you successfully complete same, the charges will be dismissed at the end of the probationary period. However, if you fail to complete the probationary period for any reason, the court may renew its prosecution of the original charges. The most typical violations of the conditional discharge program are new arrests or failed drug tests.
The conditional discharge program in New Jersey is governed by N.J.S. 2C:36A-1 which provides in pertinent part:
2C:36A-1. Conditional discharge for certain first offenses; expunging of records
a. Whenever any person who has not previously been convicted of any offense under section 20 of P.L.1970, c.226 (C.24:21-20), or a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense defined in chapter 35 or 36 of this title or, subsequent to the effective date of this title, under any law of the United States, this State or any other state relating to marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drugs, is charged with or convicted of any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense under chapter 35 or 36 of this title, the court upon notice to the prosecutor and subject to subsection c. of this section, may on motion of the defendant or the court:
(1) Suspend further proceedings and with the consent of the person after reference to the State Bureau of Identification criminal history record information files, place him under supervisory treatment upon such reasonable terms and conditions as it may require.
Am I eligible for a conditional discharge?
I often have clients call and ask whether or not they are eligible to be admitted into the conditional discharge program in New Jersey. Basically the following must be true:
- the drug offense you are charged with makes you eligible for a conditional discharge (the most common are possession of marijuana under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia)
- you have never been convicted of a drug offense in this State or any other
- you have never had a conditional discharge or pre-trial intervention (PTI) before
A Conditional discharge prevents a permanent criminal charge on your record, loss of license and can have a tremendous effect on your future. In order to be eligible for this diversionary program, it is required that the criminal charge you are facing is subject to conditional discharge and requires that you have never had a conditional discharge before and that you have never been admitted into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). Those eligible for conditional discharge should keep in mind that this program can only be granted once and should therefore be the last resort when no other defense is available.