Gov. Chris Christie signed into law on Monday legislation that will provide help for certain first-time offenders in municipal court cases.Bill S-2588, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), allows conditional discharge for many non-drug offenses, including disorderly persons offenses, which were not previously eligible for similar programs.
“This initiative will give a broader range of first-time offenders who have committed a minor offense an opportunity to turn their lives around,” Bateman said in a prepared statement. “The program will help foster participants’ rehabilitation and future success by giving them appropriate penalties without having the offense be a part of their permanent criminal record.”
Offenders who previously participated in a conditional discharge, conditional dismissal or supervisory treatment program are not eligible for conditional dismissal under the provisions of this bill. Those charged with the following crimes are also not eligible:
- organized criminal or gang activity;
- a continuing criminal business or enterprise;
- a breach of the public trust by a public officer or employee;
- domestic violence;
- an offense against an elderly, disabled or minor person;
- an offense involving driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug;
- animal cruelty; or
- any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense under chapter 35 or 36 of the Criminal Code.
The court considers the eligibility criteria, the criminal history of the defendant and the recommendation of the prosecutor. If approved, the defendant may participate in the conditional release program and be subject to one year of probation, as well as other terms and conditions, including financial obligations.
“First-time offenders who are screened to meet the eligibility requirements will be able to use the program to avoid having a record that cannot be expunged until years after the sentence is served,” Bateman said. “The legislation will also help courts efficiently adjudicate cases without costly logjams.”