You’ve never been in any kind of trouble with the law before, so being charged with a crime that could potentially put you in jail is scary. Going to trial feels very uncertain (or, even outright unlikely to have a good outcome). A plea deal might keep you out of jail, but it will leave you with a record that could permanently affect your future.
When neither of those options seems viable, you may want to consider pretrial diversion.
Who is eligible for pretrial diversion, and what is it like?
Pretrial diversion programs are generally designed for first-time offenders who, in the eyes of the state, would be reasonably likely to be rehabilitated through early intervention and supervision. The state has an invested interest in lightening its own overburdened caseload, and the diversion program is often just enough deterrence against future criminal behavior.
Generally, you’re only eligible for a diversion program when:
- Your charge is something other than a disorderly person offense or pretty disorderly. persons offense, a health code violation or something similar.
- You’ve never been in another pretrial diversion program in New Jersey or any other state.
- You’re not charged with a crime that carries automatic jail time or one that has a mandatory period of parole ineligibility.
- You’ve never been previously convicted of an indictable offense in this state or any other.
You are never under any obligation to accept pretrial diversion, and it’s not for everyone. You aren’t in control of how long you’ll be under the supervision of the court. Depending on the offense that led to your charges, you may be:
- Required to enter a drug or alcohol rehab program
- Pay court costs and restitution to any victims for their losses
- Submit to frequent drug or alcohol testing
- Obtain counseling, education or employment (or all three)
If you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed, and you may even be eligible to have your arrest record expunged. That can give you a clean slate for the future.
It’s important to note, however, that pretrial diversion isn’t automatic. Experienced legal guidance can help you complete your application and negotiate the length of your supervision by the court, so don’t hesitate to learn more.