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Options for People Facing Criminal Charges Under New Jersey’s Substance Abuse Laws – Rehab Programs, Drug Court, Conditional Discharge, and Pre-Indictment Alternatives

An addiction to a controlled substance is like a ticking bomb in many ways. Without an effective intervention, there will eventually be an explosive consequence for the user’s health, freedom, or both. Often, this consequence comes in the form of an arrest for a drug crime.

Fortunately for people facing such charges, there are some programs that can help defuse the addiction and put the accused on a path toward a brighter future.

Rehab Programs

A conviction of a drug offense can result in lengthy incarceration, fines, and restitution, as well as a lifelong criminal record. Depending upon the particular substance involved and the quantity thereof, the defendant may spend the rest of his or her life with the negative stigma of being a convicted felon. A high-quality rehabilitation program is essential to avoid continued addiction and future arrests; in some cases, it can also help the defendant avoid the full consequences of a drug offense conviction.

Drug Court

People who are facing criminal charges for a substance abuse offense may qualify for New Jersey’s “Drug Court” program, which focuses on non-violent drug-related cases. This program, which began as a voluntary program available only to offenders in certain counties, is now statewide and in many cases mandatory. Almost 5,000 participants have successfully graduated from the Drug Court program. The statistics are telling:  96% of drug tests in the preceding year were negative; during the program’s history, 191 parents have been able to regain custody of children who had been taken away due to substance abuse issues; and hundreds of drug-free babies have been born to program participants.

People who participate in Drug Court come under the court’s supervision soon after being arrested for a non-violent drug offense. (People who are arrested, or who have previously been convicted, for a violent offense are not eligible.) Participants engage in a drug treatment program that typically lasts 12 to 24 months and are required to periodically meet with a probation officer, give a urine sample, or appear in court. People who successfully complete Drug Court may be able to have their records expunged, although this does not happen automatically.

Conditional Discharge

Some offenders who are facing drug charges in the form of a “Disorderly Persons Offense” may have the option of pursuing a conditional discharge. The length of probation and the level of supervision required for a conditional discharge vary from case to case. Importantly, a conditional discharge is not a conviction and does not create a criminal record for the defendant, but not everyone accused of a drug crime is eligible. For instance, people who have been previously convicted of a controlled dangerous substance offense or who have received pretrial intervention or diversion do not qualify for the program.

Pre-Indictment Alternatives

In addition to the aforementioned programs, a defendant may be able to secure a plea offer through a pre-indictment conference rather than having his or her case proceed to trial. Such an agreement may include pre-trial intervention (a diversionary program that may allow the defendant to avoid formal prosecution), a conviction of a lesser-included offense, or a reduced sentence. The weaker the State’s case, the more likely it is for the defendant to get a favorable deal at the pre-indictment conference. Factors such as the legality of the defendant’s arrest, a questionable search or seizure, the availability and reliability of prosecution witnesses, or a failure to issue Miranda warnings may be considered in determining a plea agreement.

To Talk to an Experienced Monmouth County Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction of a drug crime, such as the possession or distribution of a controlled substance, can have lifelong consequences. To talk to a seasoned, understanding Monmouth and Ocean County drug crime attorney about your options, call the Law Office of Tara Breslow at (732) 784-2880 and set up an appointment. We have offices conveniently located in Freehold, Red Bank, Seaside Heights, and Long Beach Island and serve clients throughout the State of Jersey.

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