“Conditional Dismissal” Program for Municipal Court
New Jersey currently has two diversionary programs. The first program, Pre-Trial intervention (“PTI”), is available for first-time defendants charged with first to fourth degree criminal offenses in Superior Court. The second diversionary program, Conditional Discharge (“CD”), is available for those facing drug-related disorderly or petty disorderly offenses in municipal court. Under both programs, participants are placed on probation for some set amount of time, usually one year. Upon successful completion of probation, the judge will then dismiss the charge.
Under New Jersey’s current diversionary scheme, municipal court defendants charged with non-drug related offenses are not eligible for diversion, while superior court defendants charged with the same offenses are eligible for diversion. In other words, while an individual charged in superior court with theft of merchandise exceeding $200 would be eligible for diversion, an individual charged in municipal court with theft of $10 worth of merchandise would not be. To get around this odd dichotomy, municipal prosecutors wishing to defer minor offenders have only two options:
- Charge the individual under an ordinance violation instead;
- Dismiss the case after imposing a term of community service.
This discrepancy was the driving force behind bill A-3096, which would create a “Conditional Dismissal” program for municipal court defendants charged with non-drug related offenses. Under the proposed program, participants would be placed on probation and would be required to pay various fees along with restitution, costs and other assessments. Upon successful completion of probation, however, the judge would dismiss the charge. If the participant failed to comply with the program’s terms, the judge could either enter a conviction or restart the proceedings.
The bill was introduced on June 14, 2012 and on June 18, 2012 won unanimous approval from the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Hopefully, the New Jersey Legislature decides to cure the discrepancy in the current system and turns the bill into law.