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Individuals Charged With Marijuana Crimes Want New Chance in First-Time Offender Programs. New Marijuana Law Isn’t Helping

Individuals Charged With Marijuana Crimes Want New Chance in First-Time Offender Programs. New Marijuana Law Isn’t Helping

Individuals who had previously taken advantage of New Jersey’s diversionary programs for marijuana possession offenses are now seeking a second shot at these programs following the legalization of marijuana in the state, arguing that they had effectively wasted their eligibility for diversionary programs on crimes state officials now say they should not have been arrested for in the first place.

PTI Program Participants Seek Second Shot Following Marijuana Convictions

As part of the marijuana legalization laws passed following the voter referendum approving the legalization of recreational marijuana, New Jersey has been expunging thousands of marijuana arrest and conviction records. Governor Phil Murphy and state legislators, as part of the legislative effort to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana, have called for eliminating arrest and prosecution records for possession charges, stating that marijuana should never have been illegal and that enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws disproportionately impacted Black communities. 

However, many people who were arrested for marijuana possession in the past took advantage of various alternative disposition programs available in New Jersey criminal courts. These programs, including conditional discharge and pretrial intervention, allow people charged with certain offenses like marijuana possession to avoid a criminal conviction by complying with supervision and drug counseling programs. If a person successfully completes their diversionary program, their charge is dismissed and they do not end up with a conviction on their record. However, a person may only take advantage of these programs once in their life; if they are arrested on a subsequent charge, they cannot apply for PTI or conditional discharge.

Individuals who used PTI and conditional discharge to deal with marijuana possession charges and who are now facing new run-ins with the law want to take advantage of these alternative disposition programs again.

Courts Provide Mixed Rulings on Efforts to Vacate Prior Conditional Discharges

Criminal defense attorneys representing clients stuck in this conundrum have argued to the courts that if the legislature and governor have stated that marijuana should never have been made illegal, it is unfair to punish people who used their one shot at conditional discharge or PTI for something they apparently should never have been arrested for in the first place. 

Various trial courts have reached conflicting rulings on whether individuals who have had their marijuana arrest records expunged under the new legalization laws should be allowed to utilize diversionary programs for new criminal charges. One judge in Middlesex County declined to allow an individual to apply for PTI after having previously gone through a diversionary program for marijuana possession, while another judge in Middlesex County reached the opposite result. 

Although a traditional expungement of an arrest and criminal charge record that resulted in admission to a diversionary program usually does not allow that individual to apply for admission to a diversionary program a second time, some argue that the ongoing expungements of marijuana arrest and prosecution records are not normal expungements. Unlike a traditional expungement that is sought by the subject individual, these expungements are being directed by the legislature and judiciary. 

Contact an Experienced Audubon Drug Defense Attorney About Your Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey

Have you been charged with a drug-related offense in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension. That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified drug defense lawyer about your case. The lawyers at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Audubon, Mt. Ephraim, Camden, Pennsauken, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 452-4820 or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 109 E. Atlantic Ave., Audubon, NJ 08106, as well as offices located in Hamilton.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.



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