New Jersey has a number of diversionary programs designed to give defendants alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process. The goal is to deter future criminal activity by providing support and rehabilitative services.
The most popular diversion programs in New Jersey are Pretrial Intervention (PTI) and Conditional Discharge. Upon completion of either of these programs, your charges will automatically be dismissed.
However, you will still have an arrest record that is publicly available on background checks. Luckily you are allowed to expunge this record 6 months after completion of the diversionary program.
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This is the most popular type of expungement filed in New Jersey courts and the easiest to get granted as long as the petitioner is eligible under statute and the forms are filled out correctly. Many people get this expungement with or without a lawyer.
The PTI program typically consists of one to three years of probation. Failure to successfully complete the program results in the case being sent back to court, which typically leads to conviction. In order to be eligible for PTI you must meet the following criteria (Rule 3:28):
- 18 years of age or older
- New Jersey resident
- Charged with offense in New Jersey
- Offense is not minor (typically applies to third or fourth degree offense)
- First-time offender
- Never previously granted diversionary program
Process. The first step in obtaining PTI is filing an application with the court. After applying a background check is conducted to make sure you are eligible for the program, although you are still able to apply even if you don’t meet the initial criteria. You are then interviewed by a probation officer who gathers additional details that will help determine whether you will be successful in the program. They will also take into account other factors including environment and socio-economic factors. Ultimately, the main goal is to make sure you don’t commit another crime.
Expungement. It’s extremely easy to obtain a PTI expungement if you have successfully completed the program because all charges are dismissed and it is probably your first offense.
Conditional Discharge is a type of diversionary program designed specifically for marijuana and minor drug offenses in New Jersey. The program typically consists of 6 to 24 months of probation, including random drug testing. You can only participate in the program once.
In order to be eligible for a conditional discharge expungement, you must have not been previously convicted of any other drug offense or enrolled in a diversionary program (N.J.S. 36A-1). It is much easier to get conditional discharge than PTI, but the same factors are taken into account.
It’s extremely easy to expunge a Conditional Discharge record because the program is only given to first time offenders for minor drug violations. In fact, it is easier to expunge than a PTI record.
If you complete PTI or Conditional Discharge and are later convicted for another felony or misdemeanor, you will not be able to expunge that record. You will only be able to get the PTI or Conditional Discharge record off, but nothing else.
This is because a diversionary program is a second chance that you only get once. Therefore, any additional offenses are not expungeable if you completed the program. There is two exceptions to the rule: Municipal Ordinance violations and dismissed cases are expungeable even if you’ve completed PTI or Conditional Discharge.