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Is there any way to avoid trial on a marijuana charge?

Most individuals in New Jersey have never had to go before a judge to answer to any sort of charges. Most offenses tend to be minor ones, handled at the municipal court level. Crimes that are more serious get bumped up to criminal court. If you are facing allegations, minor or major, you need to take them seriously for the sake of your present and future.

At a time when the subject of marijuana use is in a huge state of upheaval, it can be easy to assume that the only time you need to worry is if you are headed for a criminal court appearance. The severity of punishments meted out after a municipal court conviction might not seem too troubling. It might only be after you lose out on the next job you apply for or loan you seek that you appreciate how a record of any kind can haunt you.

In recent years, those with experience in this area have noted a shift in emphasis away from outright punishment and toward more rehabilitative efforts. They are called diversionary programs. They can take various forms and each level of the court system has its models. At the municipal court level, they call the program Conditional Discharge. In criminal court, they call it Pretrial Intervention.

Whether taking advantage of such a program to avoid a trial would be in your best interest depends on the circumstances of your case. The benefit to the accused is that successful completion leaves a clean record. However, not everyone qualifies, making consultation with experienced legal counsel important. How they can work in marijuana cases follows.

Conditional discharge is available only in municipal court and for first-time offenses. Upon entering a program, prosecution is put on hold. Completing all conditions results in the charges eventually being dismissed.

Pretrial interventionrequires the defendant to plead guilty to a criminal court charge. It goes on the record as a conviction. Conditions can be tough. Once met, though, the record is erased. If you've ever gone through a diversionary program before or currently are on parole or probation, you likely won't qualify for PTI.

To achieve the best possible outcome, you need to know all your options.

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