For certain first-time offenders, the state of New Jersey offers an alternative to prison or jail time known as a diversion program. Aside from their benefit of providing you a way out of spending time in jail, these programs may also result in a dismissal of the charges against you.
According to the United States Pretrial Services Agency, a diversion program entails diverting the defendant “from prosecution to a program of supervision.” The U.S. attorney chooses candidates for this program who seem likely to complete the program successfully because “they have not adopted a criminal lifestyle” - or, generally speaking, they are first-time offenders.
As a result of the successful completion of a New Jersey diversion program, you might be able to walk away with dismissed charges. This can make your future a lot easier - for example, when you're filling out job applications or applying for mortgages.
Here, we'll discuss frequently asked questions regarding New Jersey diversion programs and pretrial intervention.
I'm a first time offender. Am I really in trouble?
Don't minimize the situation just because you've never been in trouble before. There's a first time for everything, and that includes first convictions on your previously spotless record. It is very possible for this offense - even if it is your first - to have unpleasant ramifications and permanent consequences.
If you're a first-time offender, you may be eligible for a diversion program in the state of New Jersey.
What is pretrial intervention?
If you are an adult or juvenile, and you're in criminal court for the first time, you may have the option to avoid trial by pursuing a pretrial intervention program. In a pretrial intervention program, you will have access to “counseling, supervision, and other services to help you get your life back on track.”
It's important to realize that pretrial intervention and a diversion program are completely voluntary. You can choose to stand trial.
If you qualify for, receive an invitation to, and opt to participate in a diversion program, a pretrial services officer will supervise you for the length of your participation in the program.
After that time, if there are no issues, the government will decline prosecution for your offense, and will dismiss the charges against you. As a result, you'll be able to navigate future job changes and rental applications much more easily.
Do I qualify for a New Jersey diversion program or pretrial intervention?
According to New Jersey Courts, to qualify for a diversionary or Pretrial Intervention program, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You've never before attempted a Pretrial Intervention program - including the Veterans Diversion Program, or one in another state.
- You have not attempted Conditional Discharge or Conditional Dismissal.
- Your charge isn't a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense.
If the court charges you with a crime that carries a jail sentence, a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility, or you have a prior conviction for an indictable offense, you need the prosecutor's permission in order to apply.
Finally, if you're a public employee and your crime relates to your office, or your crime was violent, the court will be less likely to accept your application.
Even if you do qualify for a diversion program, know that admittance is not a done deal. Often, to enter a diversion program, you will need the benefit of extensive litigation and negotiation by an experienced defense attorney.
To qualify, a pretrial services officer will:
- Investigate you as an individual (including researching your history of conduct and the specifics of the charges against you);
- Recommend either for or against placement in the New Jersey diversion program; and
- Decide upon the length of the supervision you will undergo and any other special conditions for your diversion program.
At the end of your diversion program, the court will dismiss your charges, but there may still be a record of your arrest. To remove this, you will have to file for an expungement.
How can an experienced private attorney help?
Your primary qualifier for pretrial intervention is that you have never gone through the New Jersey criminal justice system before. This system can be very confusing, and it involves a lot of paperwork, filing, deadlines, and tough conversations.
An experienced private attorney can assist with all of this and more, including:
- Helping you figure out whether you qualify for pretrial intervention
- Assisting with your application
- Attending court events with you while your application is pending
- Analyzing any results of a court investigation into you while your application is pending
- Negotiating the length of your supervision and any other special conditions the court recommends
- Guiding you through the intimidating criminal justice process
- Ultimately, helping you ensure that your record stays clean
When you're unfamiliar with the New Jersey criminal justice system, it can be bewildering and overwhelming to complete even simple tasks. Qualifying for, applying to, and starting a pretrial intervention program is not simple.
Fortunately, you don't have to go it alone. With the expertise of a seasoned criminal justice lawyer, you can go through your application process, knowing that you have all the information you need at your disposal. Your attorney can work with you to ensure that your pretrial process is as successful as possible.
Joseph D. Lento - an NJ Private Attorney Ready to Help You
If you face criminal charges, you may be wondering what happens next or if there is anything you can do to avoid prison time. Particularly if yours is a first-time offense, you're likely confused about navigating the criminal justice system on your own. Fortunately, you don't have to DIY your defense. Hire skilled criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to guide you through the ins and outs of pretrial processes, including qualifying for New Jersey diversion programs. For years, Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended New Jersey citizens in Municipal and Superior Courts all over the state - and he can do the same for you. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or contact them online for the help you need.