Municipal Courts have jurisdiction over disorderly person and petty disorderly person offenses and traffic matters occurring within the municipality.
Offenses can result in a maximum of six months jail time and $1000.00 fine. Offenses are serious infractions, but are less serious than crimes. Up until recently, the only conditional discharge program for first offenders in Municipal Court was for certain drug possession and drug paraphernalia offenses. A period of supervisory treatment was ordered to benefit the Defendant by serving to correct any dependence on or use of controlled substances. The conditional discharge program is available one time only and still is in effect. If the Defendant completes the program, the charges would be dismissed and the Defendant, after six months of the discharge, can apply for an expungement.
Recently, a Conditional Dismissal Program has been enacted for other offenses. It is limited to those charged with disorderly and petty disorderly offenses in Municipal Court. Traffic violations and local ordinances are not eligible. Other offenses are excluded. These are:
A defendant can seek a diversion through the Conditional Discharge Program (CDP). He must either plead guilty or have a full trial. A Defendant can apply for CDP after a finding of guilt, but the Court can withhold recording a judgment of conviction to allow the Defendant to attempt diversion into the CDP program. The applicant must have no prior convictions, no prior diversions in New Jersey. The Defendant will be fingerprinted. The Prosecutor is notified. The Municipal Court Judge will consider the following factors:
Payments. In the Municipal Court, fines are capped at $1000.00 for disorderly person offenses and $500.00 for petty disorderly person. The Court may assess these amounts.
Admittance to CDP is dependent upon payment of a variety of fees and assessments. Initially, each applicant must pay an application fee of $75.00. Payment of the fee may be waived due to poverty or paid in reasonable installments. If admitted into the program, the Defendant is also be required to pay any restitution costs, and other mandatory assessments, that would have been imposed by law for a conviction of the offense charged. In addition, instead of a fine, the municipal court judge may impose an assessment, based on the nature of the offense and the character of the Defendant that shall not exceed the amount of a fine that would have been imposed for conviction of the offense charged. These assessments may also be subject to payment in installments, conversion to community service or vacating under the general authority vested in municipal court judges by NJSA 1B:12-23.1.
When imposed, the assessment will be distributed in the same manner as a fine for the offense charged. A Defendant must be advised of these financial conditions prior to seeking entry into the program.
Completion of the CDP Program is usually for a one-year period under supervision by Probation. The Defendant must pay all assessments, fees and costs, and complete the terms set by the judge, such as alcohol treatment, counseling, continued education or community service. Successful completion will result in dismissal of the underlying charge. A Complaint dismissed through CDP cannot be deemed a conviction for disqualification or disabilities. This program can be very important particularly if someone can lose their job if convicted of an offense.
Use of the CDP program, however, must be carefully evaluated because in some cases it is not the best choice. It is a one-time program which must be used after a full, knowing evaluation of the consequences of alternate choices and opportunities for expungement.
Helfand & Associates located at 575 Route 10 East, Whippany, New Jersey, telephone number 973-428-0800, www.tanyahelfand.com , provides full municipal court defense for all matters including DWI, drug offenses, assaults, shoplifting, harassment, criminal mischief and defense of local ordinances. Former assistant municipal prosecutor, Jacqueline F. Pivawer, Esq., associate. We also do expungement.