Under New Jersey motor vehicle law, possession of small amounts of drugs (Controlled Dangerous Substances or CDS) can have serious consequences. These include jail time, license suspension, and hefty fines. Fortunately, New Jersey offers a one-time program for the first offender called a Conditional Discharge.
When is a Conditional Discharge Available?
This is available if the court determines that
- Your continued presence in the community, or in a civil treatment center or program, will not pose a danger to the community; or
- That the terms and conditions of supervisory treatment will be adequate to protect the public and will benefit you by serving to correct any dependence on or use of controlled substances which you may have; and
- You have not previously received supervisory treatment under a Conditional Discharge.
How Does It Work?
If you meet these requirements, a traffic court judge can suspend the proceedings against you and “place [you] under supervisory treatment upon such reasonable terms and conditions as it may require” (this often means random drug testing) either with or without a guilty plea to the offense or a finding of guilt.
Once the period of supervision (often no more than 6 months) is completed without incident (you have not been convicted of any new offenses or violates any of the terms of the program, such as the random drug testing), the drug charge is dismissed.
If you violate any of the terms, however, a judgment of conviction is entered (if there was a guilty plea or finding of guilt) or the matter is reopened and given a new trial date (if there was no guilty plea or finding of guilt).
Why You Don't Want to Plead Guilty!
The difference is that if the Conditional Discharge is granted after a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt, the court must suspend your driver’s license for 6 months to two years. The only exception to this is if the judge finds “compelling circumstances warranting an exception.”
This is understood to be the case “if the suspension of the person's driving privileges will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available.” If there is no guilty plea of finding of guilt, there is no suspension.
So What Should I Do?
This is a great option to address a one-time mistake by a person who has otherwise been a law-abiding citizen. If you live in southern New Jersey and find yourself in a situation such as this, please feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment for a free consultation in my Woodbury office.
If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's traffic laws, then download my free book, A Guide to Driving Legally in NJ, and Surviving Traffic Court If You Don't.