A lot of people do that one stupid thing in their lives that they are not proud of. It is that youthful indiscretion that one brush with the law encountered by that otherwise law-abiding citizen. Sometimes, it is that joint in your pocket or car; sometimes, it is an impulsive grab for goods in a store that leads to shoplifting charges.

Fortunately, New Jersey courts recognize this and give you a one-time "out" for these charges, called a "diversion." A conditional discharge has been available for years for minor drug charges, but what if you were caught shoplifting? Is there anything you can do there? Yes, there is!

Conditional Dismissal to the Rescue 

At the beginning of 2014, a program became available for criminal offenses classified as "disorderly persons offenses" or "petty disorderly persons offenses" called Conditional Dismissal. To qualify, though, you must meet specific requirements:

  • You can have no prior convictions
  • You cannot have previously obtained a Conditional Discharge, Conditional Dismissal, or Pretrial Intervention in New Jersey
  • Approval by the court after judicial evaluation

If you get into the Conditional Dismissal Program (CDP) and complete it, the shoplifting charge will be dismissed.

How Do I Get a Conditional Dismissal of Shoplifting in New Jersey?

To complete the program, you must:

  • Pay the $75 application fee
  • Pay all costs, restitutions, and assessments levied by the court
  • Have no convictions for other offenses in any part of the United States
  • Successfully complete any other program terms and conditions imposed by the judge

Once the program is completed and the charge dismissed, it will not be deemed a conviction for the purposes of disqualifications or disabilities, if any, that might flow from a shoplifting conviction (such as being barred from certain types of employment, like teaching).

But It Only Works Once!

Remember, you only get this one chance, this "one bite at the apple," to avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction. Should you get into trouble again, even if you did not complete the CDP on the shoplifting charge, you can never have another "diversion," like Conditional Discharge, Conditional Dismissal, or Pretrial Intervention.

So, Should I Get a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you have been charged with shoplifting in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, you really should get a lawyer. You don't want to get a criminal record if you can avoid it.

Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.