An experienced New Brunswick babysitter recently pleaded guilty to charges that she endangered the welfare of a baby who died in her care. The babysitter, aged 62, pleaded guilty to second-degree endangering the welfare of a child (N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4).
She agreed to enter a first-time offender program for a three-year period. Failure to complete the offender program could have serious consequences, including a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
First-time offender programs may be available to your situation. This post recaps New Jersey’s diversionary programs for first-time offenders.
New Jersey Diversionary-Rehabilitation Programs
New Jersey has several programs intended to rehabilitate certain first-time offenders. The goals of these programs are to keep certain offenders from the prisons and offer supervision and support needed to prevent a second offense. These programs operate on the premise of links between crime and the offender’s needs for rehabilitation. The New Jersey criminal justice system provides a chance for these offenders to receive help and eventually get life back on track.
There are two diversionary programs for a first-time offender: 1) pretrial intervention (PTI) and 2) conditional discharge or dismissal. An offender may only participate in a diversionary program one time. Since New Jersey’s diversionary programs are intended to prevent offenders’ subsequent offenses, the offender won’t get a second shot at a diversionary program instead of jail or prison time.
New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention
A pre-trial intervention (PTI) seeks to reserve a first-offense case before it goes to trial. It’s intended to work in the best interests’ of victim and defendant and allows the New Jersey court system to deploy its resources to the most serious crimes.
If a defendant qualifies for PTI, he or she won’t go through a complete trial and won’t bear the social stigma of having a permanent criminal record. He or she must fulfill the program requirements of restitution, drug/alcohol evaluations, and community service.
The state monitors the participant’s progress to ensure he or she meets the requirements. The participant is supervised throughout the program. If the offender meets the necessary requirements within the specified period, his or her charges are dismissed and there is no conviction record. If the offender fails to meet the requirements, the case is turned over to the court.
Although anyone charged with a felony offense may apply for PTI, only certain applicants are accepted. The following criteria may apply:
- The applicant must be an adult permanent resident of New Jersey
- The offense must be criminal/penal
- Defendants with prior convictions may be ineligible (as well as probationers or parolees)
The PTI applicant is interviewed by the Superior Court’s Criminal Division. If the applicant is accepted, the decision is forwarded to the defense counsel and prosecutor. Both must agree to the defendant’s admittance to the PTI program. Applicants may have the option to appeal the Superior Court decision if not accepted.
New Jersey Conditional Discharge
Like PTI, a conditional discharge program is intended to rehabilitate the offender and to deploy the court’s resources in the best possible way. Under a conditional discharge, some drug offenders have the option to avoid trial under the protection of court supervision for a period of time.
He or she may be required to submit to random drug tests, attend drug education meetings, or participate in various other programs ordered by the judge. The participant may face the suspension of his or her driver’s license for up to two years. If he or she completes the program requirements and doesn’t commit a new offense, his or her charges are dismissed.
Eligibility for Conditional Discharge
Conditional discharge is typically available for a drug misdemeanor. When the defendant faces a felony offense, PTI might apply.
A judge determines the applicant’s potential eligibility for conditional discharge. In most cases:
- The defendant must be a first-time offender.
- The defendant must not have received a conditional discharge in the past.
- The defendant must not have been granted PTI in the past.
The judge must determine that the offender isn’t a potential danger to the public and that the community is likely to benefit from the defendant’s rehabilitation.
This diversionary program is available to work in tandem with PTI and conditional discharge programs. Conditional dismissal may be granted when the defendant is placed under community supervision for a specific period as long as he or she meets conditions, such as:
- The defendant has no additional arrests.
- The defendant makes payments as agreed.
- The defendant submits to drug testing (in some cases).
If the defendant satisfies the conditions during the supervision period, he or her charges may be dismissed. While a record of the arrest will exist, a record of conviction will not. It may be possible to expunge the arrest record at a later date. Expungement means the arrest record is erased.
Conditional Dismissal Eligibility
Under New Jersey law, an individual charged with a petty disorderly person offense/disorderly person offense may request to enter the conditional dismissal program under certain qualifiers, such as:
- The defendant must not have prior petty/disorderly person offenses or crimes in the past.
- The defendant must not have previously participated in a PTI, conditional discharge or conditional dismissal program.
- Disqualifiers for entrance in the program include 1) domestic violence, 2) driving under the influence DUI/DWI, 3) organized crime/gang activity, 4) public officer/employee breaching the public trust, 5) offenses against disabled, elderly, or minor persons, 6) offenses of animal cruelty and 7) continuing a criminal enterprise or business.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey PTI First-Time Offender Attorney
Attorney James M. Porfido is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court. He has the experience and will to fight for you. If you have been charged with a crime and have questions about pretrial intervention (PTI) or conditional discharges or dismissal, contact James M. Porfido, Attorney at Law, at (973) 370-9788.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.