Conditional Dismissal is a much welcomed diversionary program which was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie (R) as P.L. 2013 c. 158 on September 6, 2013, and went into effective January 4, 2014. It allows those who qualify, charged with disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses in municipal court, an opportunity to keep a clean record provided they successfully complete a 1 year period of probation without any additional criminal convictions. This is a perfect compliment to the Conditional Discharge Program, under N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1, which works similarly, but applies only to drug offenses, and the Pre-Trial Intervention Program under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12 which applies to indictable offenses. In a time when the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the New Jersey Attorney General strongly discourage municipal prosecutors from downgrading disorderly persons offenses to non-criminal municipal ordinances, this is a valuable option for prosecutors and defense attorneys resolving cases.
Harassment, charged under 2C:33-4 is one of those charges in New Jersey that doesn’t sound particularly serious. The vast majority of times it isn’t, and is charged as a petty disorderly persons offense, carrying no more than a $500 fine and up to 30 days in county jail. When charged in this fashion it is handled in municipal court. Many times the conduct is either a de minimis infraction, or does not actually rise to the level of harassment, as a matter of law. When representing clients charged under these circumstances, resolution is usually easily achieved with a dismissal, or downgrade to a non-criminal offense such as a local ordinance. However, there are circumstances when Harassment can be brought as a fourth degree indictable offense, which is a much more serious legal situation, and why you should be familiar with New Jersey Harassment laws.
As a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who maintains a practice in East Brunswick, in Middlesex County, I have represented more than my fair share of Rutgers students from both the Piscataway and New Brunswick campuses over the years. Usually it’s the same litany of charges: Noise violations, disorderly conduct, the very rare simple assault charge, drinking in public, urinating in public, possession of small amounts of marijuana, underage possession of alcohol, and… underage drinking. Summonses that range from ordinance violations, to disorderly persons offenses. Not very serious. I confess that most of the time I’ve had a fairly casual attitude towards this type of behavior, assuring nervous parents retaining me for their children that these types of incidents are very common amongst college students, and that I’m very good at getting them worked out in court. It’s not that I don’t take these cases seriously, I do. I know full well that at the end of the day, moms and dads don’t want their college aged children to have a record for behavior that was really nothing more than a momentary lapse of judgment. I can certainly understand that, and as an attorney, I take that responsibility seriously. Perhaps that is why, personally, I’ve had that casual attitude, viewing these incidents as nothing more than foolish behavior, combined with confidence in my ability to resolve these matters successfully. On September 21, 2014 sophomore Rutgers student Caitlyn P. Kovacs passed away due to what is believed to be acute alcohol poisoning. She was only 19.