Alternatives to Jail for First-Time Drug Offenders in New Jersey
New Jersey is very tough on drug offenses like possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug trafficking, and distribution. Even if it was your first time being convicted of a drug-related crime, you can go to prison.
What Are My Options?
In New Jersey, there are specially designed programs for people who have never been charged with a drug-related offense before. These diversionary programs allow a person charged for the first time with a minor drug offense to avoid a conviction. Instead of serving a prison sentence, you will be placed in a program designed to prevent you from becoming a repeat offender. Although far from ideal, diversionary programs are the best alternative to mainstream modes of punishment (i.e. paying fines or serving jail time) for a first-time offender charged with a minor drug offense.
Conditional Discharges (N.J.S.A. 2C:36A):
Additionally, NJ allows a first-time offender who is convicted of a minor drug offense (e.g. possession of marijuana) to be placed on probation for a year. If completed successfully without any infractions, your criminal conviction will be expunged from your record. This serves as a wake up call to you while not subjecting you to an exorbitant fine or putting you behind bars. Remember, getting a conditional discharge is wholly within the discretion of the judge who will base his decision on the surrounding circumstances. Moreover, you will only be allowed one conditional discharge. This means that you should vigilantly fight false charges and save this lesser-known option for when you might need it most.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) [(N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12)]:
Another diversionary program is called PTI. PTI is designed for offenders who need rehabilitation, not incarceration. Being admitted into New Jersey’s PTI program allows for you to avoid the criminal process altogether. If admitted, you will not have to serve a prison sentence and can avoid having a permanent criminal record.
In order to be admitted to NJ’s Pre-Trial Intervention program, you must:
• Have been charged with an indictable offense
• Be a first-time offender
• Have not gone through PTI before
• Have not been granted a conditional discharge
Aside from these four requirements, the court must conclude that PTI will help deter you from committing further crimes and that you will be able to avoid similar criminal activity if your cultural, social, and economic conditions changed. Lastly, you must show the court a desire to change and be rehabilitated. Once accepted, you can be placed in PTI for 1-3 years, depending on your situation and need. If you successfully complete the program without any violations, your criminal conviction will be expunged from your record. However, failure to properly complete the program will result in your removal. This means you will be returned to the regular criminal process where you could face jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record.
What Really Happens in PTI?
Some clients worry that being admitted to PTI is on par with going to the “funny farm.” This cannot be further from the truth!
PTI is a specially-designed program for you that could involve any of the following:
• Drug-Abuse Prevention Education
• Employment Training and Placement
• Supervised Probation
PTI is your opportunity to learn what it takes to stop using drugs and begin to become integrated into society as a fully contributing member. Most PTI programs work with you to help you obtain secure employment upon your graduation from the program. However, as with conditional discharges, this option should be saved for when you truly need it most.
If you or a loved one was charged with a drug offense in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights, fight to keep you out of jail, and do what he can to have your drug charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.