Conditional Dismissal law
by: W. Les Hartman
Having a criminal record can wreak havoc with your ability to get a job, finish your education, or otherwise get ahead in life. While New Jersey Courts have long provided an opportunity to avoid a criminal record for certain drug offenses and for certain indictable offenses, prior to January 4, 2014 if you pleaded guilty or were found guilty of a charge in Municipal Court that did not involve drugs, you had to wait at least five years to remove it from your record. These offenses could include things like, Shoplifting, Criminal Mischief or Simple Assault. With the new Conditional Dismissal law (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-13.1), however, this can be done much quicker.
Under the new law, someone who is charged with a Disorderly Persons Offense or Petty Disorderly Persons Offense may enter the Conditional Dismissal program if: (1) he or she has not been previously been convicted of any petty disorderly persons offense, disorderly persons offense or crime and; (2) he or she has not participated in the Conditional Discharge Program (N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1), Conditional Dismissal Program, or the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)( N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12). There are certain offenses such as those involving Domestic Violence or Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) that are excluded from this program. Drug offenses and Indictable offenses that are handled in the Superior Court of the Jersey, would also be excluded, however, these offenses might be eligible for other diversionary programs.
Unlike a Conditional Discharge or Pre Trial Intervention (PTI), you must plead guilty before entering the Conditional Dismissal Program. Even though you plead guilty, a conviction is not entered on your record.
After your plea of guilty, you will be on probation for one year. During your probation you might be have to participate in certain programs, do community service or other reasonable requirements. In addition, you will be responsible for certain monetary penalties. But if you successfully complete your probation, the judge will dismiss your charge and you will be eligible for an Expungement (N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 et. seq.) of your arrest six months after your dismissal. Once your charge is expunged, you can honestly say that you have never been arrested or convicted of a criminal offence. It is like it never happened.
Alternatively, if you do not follow the requirements of the program or you are convicted of a new offense, your guilty plea will be converted into a judgment and you can be sentenced to the maximum fine and/or the maximum jail sentence that the charge allows. This is why it is important to have an experienced attorney help you with your conditions.
So if you’ve never been convicted of any type of offense and you have never taken advantage of any prior diversionary program, your attorney can make an application for a Conditional Dismissal. But, as with any other important legal decision, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney to guide you through the process.