Conditional Dismissal Program for New Jersey Municipal Courts

On June 27, 2013, the New Jersey Senate passed bill A-3598/S-2588 by a vote of 38-0.  The bill passed the Assembly in April of 2013 with a vote of 76-0-1. The bill creates a “conditional dismissal” program in New Jersey municipal court for those charged with disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses. In December of 2012, Governor Christie conditionally vetoed a similar bill due to high program costs.  Bill A-3598/S-2588, however, follows the Governor’s suggested fee structure and, as such, will most likely become law.  According to the text of the bill itself, the law will take effect 120 days after enactment.

The conditional dismissal program would allow those individuals who face criminal sanctions to avoid conviction and expunge their records much quicker.  The program would place eligible participants on probation.  Upon successful completion of probation, the charges against the individual would be dismissed.  Six months after the charges are dismissed, the individual may apply for an expungement of the record of their arrest.  If the individual had actually been convicted of a disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense, on the other hand, they would have to wait five years from the date they completed their sentenced to expunge the record.      

The conditional dismissal program corrects a discrepancy in New Jersey’s diversionary programs.  Under the current programs, those individuals facing felony charges in New Jersey’s Superior Courts may be eligible to participate in Pre-Trial Intervention (“PTI”).  While in PTI, the individual will be placed on probation for a specified term.  Upon completion of probation, the criminal charges are dismissed.  While those charged in Municipal Court with certain drug violations may be eligible to participate in what is known as the conditional discharge program, there is no equivalent diversionary program for those charged with disorderly persons offenses not involving drug offenses.  In other words, while an individual charged with a felony shoplifting conviction in Superior Court may enroll in PTI and have the charges dismissed upon completion, an individual charged with a disorderly persons shoplifting conviction in Municipal Court would not be able to enroll in a diversionary program and would thus most likely end up with a conviction on their record.

Under the proposed legislation, conditional dismissal would be unavailable to those individuals who had previously had criminal charges dismissed pursuant to a diversionary program.  Additionally, the program would be unavailable to those persons charged with certain enumerated offenses, including: domestic violence, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and public corruption.

If you are charged with a disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense in Municipal Court, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Randolph Wolf for a free consultation.