Avoiding a Criminal Record After Charges Are Filed
You’ve been charged with a crime and you’re facing fines, jail time and probation. Being found guilty of any serious crime in New Jersey can and will impact your ability to earn a living, possibly prevent you from seeing your children, and could have lifelong effects on your reputation. However, if you are a candidate for a diversion program, you may have a chance to avoid much of that – including a criminal record.
A diversion program is the form of sentence in which the criminal offender joins a rehabilitation program, which will help remedy the behavior leading to the arrest, and avoid conviction and a criminal record. They are a great way to keep your criminal record clean. If you successfully complete your diversion requirements, the only thing that will display on your criminal record will be the arrest, but the charges will show as dismissed.
There are three main types of diversion programs in New Jersey: a Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI), Conditional Discharge, and Conditional Dismissal. Each applies mainly to the type of offense you are charged with and the severity of the crime. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
Pre-Trial Intervention is a program that provides an alternative to the process of pleading not guilty, proceeding to trial, and having a verdict entered by a jury. PTI applies exclusively to a felony or indictable criminal charges. First offenders can apply to PTI to eventually get their charges dismissed and avoid some of the harshest penalties, like jail time and a criminal record of conviction. It seems counter-intuitive that this program only available to people who have committed serious offenses, but that is who this program is for, as long as the crimes do not involve abuse of public office, or certain other offenses. You also may not qualify if your offense was incredibly serious or violent.
The largest and most obvious benefit is that a person who is permitted to enter PTI won’t have to go to prison and will avoid a criminal record. New Jersey’s PTI is a program that seeks to rehabilitate, rather than punish, a person who the courts believe deserves a second chance. There is no history of a conviction and the defendant avoids a criminal record after PTI is successfully completed. It provides early resolution of a case which serves the interests of the victim, the defendant the public, and it lessens the burden on the court and allows resources to be devoted to more serious criminals.
Eligibility depends on on a few things like the following:
- You must be charged with a qualifying crime
- This must be your first time using PTI
- You must comply with an order of supervision as if on probation
- You must complete courses and activities aimed at rehabilitation like an anger management program
- You must pay restitution, fines, court costs, and PTI fees
- You must remain free from additional crimes
- You may need to follow other requirements such as performing community service, or comply with drug testing
The main reason why PTI is viewed as a second chance is that if and when a defendant completes the program successfully, charges are dismissed and the person is not convicted of the crime. This gives the individual a chance to start over with a clean record. If the program is not completed, or the individual gets arrested again or fails a spot drug test, there is no second opportunity for PTI. At that point, charges will stand and the person will face a judge and jury.
Conditional Discharge is a diversion program for minor drug offenses. Like PTI, you may be required to enter a conditional guilty plea, but by completing all the requirements of the program, you can have the charges dropped. Also like PTI, you can only take advantage of a Conditional Discharge one time.
The main difference between Conditional Discharge and PTI is what crimes they apply to. PTI is available only for more serious crimes and Conditional Discharge is available only for minor drug crimes. Less serious (non-indictable offenses) in New Jersey are classified as disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses and are punished by no more than 6 months in jail. Those disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses involving drugs (like possession of a small amount of marijuana) are the types of offenses Conditional Discharge is available for.
Conditional Dismissal programs are for disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses not involving drugs. Conditional Dismissal allows defendants charged with less serious, non-drug related offenses to pay fines, perform community service, and attend classes instead of facing criminal penalties. The classes and programs are aimed at helping defendants work through issues such as drug abuse and to manage personality disturbances like anger. The program is designed to help them avoid committing crimes in the future.
Like PTI and Conditional Discharge, Conditional Dismissal is for first-time offenders, so if you have a criminal record, or if you have previously taken advantage of a diversion program, you likely are not eligible.
It is normal to be upset and worried when you’re facing a criminal charge, especially if you’ve never been in trouble before. In the beginning, you need to have answers and you need to know what you have ahead of you, and what you need to be focused on to get through the criminal charge in good shape.
Remember, not everyone is eligible for diversion programs. As a former prosecutor, John W. Tumelty knows the guidelines of the programs extremely well and has a great amount of success getting clients admitted to them. He knows exactly how to best position clients and will put his experience to work for you.
If you want to learn more about PTI, visit our PTI FAQ’s page, or to obtain assistance getting admitted to the program, or it you’ve been charged with a crime after PTI, speak with a skilled, experienced lawyer who is passionate about protecting the rights of his clients. John W. Tumelty will meet with you, for free, to discuss your specific case. Time is of the essence; don’t wait. Contact him today to learn more about your option for avoiding jail time or for getting your charges reduced. Tumelty has offices in Marmora, Somers Point, and Atlantic City NJ and represents clients from all over Atlantic and Cape May counties and beyond.