Law Permits Conditional Dismissal Of Minor Municipal Court Offenses
Participation is allowed only once and would foreclose eligibility for other diversionary programs. Likewise, prior participation in another diversionary program would render a defendant ineligible for conditional dismissal.
For example, defendants charged with drug-related disorderly persons offenses are excluded because they are eligible for conditional discharge — a separate program — if they have no prior convictions in any jurisdiction.
Any application approved over the municipal prosecutor's objection will be stayed for 10 days, allowing for appeal to the Superior Court.
Participants must pay a $75 program fee, to be deposited in a judiciary fund. Fees and other assessments may be waived or payment plans implemented for indigent defendants.
The judiciary, which lent its support to the legislation, will incur a onetime cost to update its computer system to accept the new fee — estimated at $348,000. Ongoing intake and monitoring costs will be offset by the fees.
"We have no specific concerns at this time, but we know that any brand-new program needs to be monitored very carefully," says judiciary spokeswoman Winnie Comfort. "We expect to identify any problems that arise and be prepared to address them quickly."
An earlier iteration of the bill, which sought to impose a $500 application fee and called for raising the $75 fee for existing diversionary programs to $350, was conditionally vetoed by Christie last November. He supported the legislation in principle, calling it "forward thinking," but demanded a $75 fee instead.
Lawmakers adopted Christie's changes and reintroduced the legislation, which progressed with no known opposition inside or outside the Legislature.
An Assembly co-sponsor, Jon Bramnick, R-Union, says: "Everybody in the municipal court practice knew this was extremely important."
Bramnick, of Bramnick, Rodriguez, Mitterhoff, Grabas & Woodruff in Scotch Plains, points out that a minor conviction can affect a defendant's ability to apply for professional licensure in the future.