First Offenses in NJ Criminal and DUI Cases

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Charged with Your First Offense in Union County, New Jersey?

If you are arrested for a crime, serious traffic offense, or juvenile offense for the first time, the potential for a favorable outcome or reduced penalties is much greater than if you are a repeat offender. For example, one of the most notable benefits of being a first-time offender is your potential eligibility for a number of different pretrial diversion programs, including Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) for felony charges or perhaps conditional discharge or conditional dismissal for a disorderly persons offense. If you can gain admission into one of these programs, you can avoid the effects of a criminal conviction or adjudication of delinquency on your criminal record. The following explains how your first-time offender status may help you in New Jersey municipal court or Superior Court. If you are looking for an experienced lawyer who can help with your first criminal or DUI case in Elizabeth, Cranford, Roselle, Berkeley Heights, Westfield, Clark, Union Township, or another town in Union County, contact our law office now for a free consultation at (908) 838-0150. We have the knowledge to discuss and explain all of the specifics of your charges and will vigorously defend you in court.

First Time Criminal Charges in Union County Superior Court

If you are charged with a felony (indictable offense), specifically a third or fourth degree crime, there are a number of benefits associated with being a first-time offender in New Jersey. First, facing third or fourth degree charges for your first offense, such as resisting arrest, possession of cocaine, heroin possession, forgery, or prescription drug charges, means a presumption of non-incarceration applies in your case. This essentially means that the court does not presume that you should be sentenced to prison. You may be able to get probation or be subject to other reduced penalties that allow you to avoid jail time altogether. Of course, the quality of your lawyer also has a significant impact on the outcome in your case.

Another benefit of being a first-time offender charged with a third or fourth degree indictable offense is the presumption of non-incarceration that applies with regard to your pretrial release status. Given your lack of prior convictions, you may be permitted to stay out of jail in the time leading up to your next court appearance and throughout your case. Whereas repeat offenders may find themselves incarcerated for the weeks or months before their trial date.

You may also qualify for a New Jersey program known as Pretrial Intervention (PTI). If you qualify for the program, PTI permits you to avoid a criminal conviction by fulfilling a number of court-ordered conditions for a specified period of time. For example, you may need to submit to random drug testing, check in with a probation officer or the court on a monthly basis, and avoid subsequent convictions for one to three years. If you complete your court-ordered PTI conditions successfully, your case will be dismissed and you can walk away free and clear. If you fail to satisfy the conditions of PTI, you then face being convicted of the original offense charged against you and face a number of consequences. However, the option to keep a clean criminal record can be extremely beneficial to first-time offenders charged with eligible third and fourth degree indictable offenses.

Options for First Offenders in Municipal Courts in Union County

There are numerous ways to get a disorderly persons charge reduced or dismissed in municipal court. Your lawyer has additional bargaining power when negotiating the best deal with the prosecutor if this is the first time you have been arrested or charged with a crime. In addition, you may be eligible for a program similar to the PTI program if you are charged with a disorderly persons (misdemeanor-level) offense and you are a first-offender in New Jersey. For example, disorderly persons charges for drugs and drug paraphernalia are potentially resolvable through a diversion program known as conditional discharge. This applies to highly common charges like possession of marijuana under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. Conditional dismissal is yet another program that may be available to you if charged with shoplifting and it is your first offense. Again, if you satisfy certain court-ordered conditions and avoid picking up new arrests or convictions, you may be able to leave court without a criminal conviction on your record.

Deferred Dispositions in Union County Juvenile Cases

Similarly, if you are a first-time juvenile offender, your attorney may be able to work out a “deferred disposition” for you, similar to the conditional discharge and PTI programs. Basically, satisfy the court’s requirements and you can potentially avoid being adjudicated delinquent (the term used to refer to a criminal conviction for juveniles in New Jersey).

Reduced Penalties for First Traffic Offenses

Although some serious traffic offenses, most notably a DWI charge, are not subject to pretrial diversion programs like those discussed above, being a first-time DWI offender presents you with a number of significant advantages over being a repeat offender, particularly in the area of sentencing. You will be exposed to significantly lower fines, lower maximum jail time, and subject to the loss of your driver’s license for a much shorter period of time than second DUI charges or subsequent DWI offenses.

Facing Charges for the First Time in Elizabeth, Attorney Needed

While this is a general overview of some of the benefits of first-time offender status, you should consult a qualified criminal defense attorney to learn more about your available options based on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers defend clients charged with first offenses for a vast array of alleged crimes, including simple assaultburglarycocaine possessionresisting arrestdisorderly conduct, and more. Contact our office today at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation or request an appointment at our convenient offices in Cranford, New Jersey.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.