Interviewer: What kinds of crimes have either diversionary or first‑time offender programs associated with them?
Lauren Scardella: There are three separate programs in New Jersey and they encompass all disorderly persons drug offenses, certain disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses, and some indictable offenses. If, for instance, an indictable crime is of the second degree, a person is technically not allowed into a first‑time offenders program, but exceptions are sometimes made if there are compelling reasons to do so.
Interviewer: What are the degrees of indictable offenses, from most to least serious?
Lauren Scardella: We have four degrees of indictable offenses in New Jersey. First‑degree would be the most serious. Conviction of a first‑degree crime carries 10 to 20 years in prison. A conviction on a second‑degree offense 5 to 10 years. A third‑degree would be 3 to 5 years, and a fourth‑degree, which is the lowest level of the indictable offenses, involves imprisonment of up to 18 months.
Diversionary Programs Overview
Interviewer: Are the first‑time offender programs the same thing as diversionary programs, or are they different?
Lauren Scardella: They’re the same.
Interviewer: Okay, so there’s a way to get a case resolved, because you’re a first‑time offender, without going through the whole nightmare of a trial and a possible conviction?
Lauren Scardella: Exactly. In two of the three first‑time offender programs, the defendant does not have to plead guilty or admit to any wrongdoing, and is placed on a period of probation. As long as the defendant complies with all the terms of probation, then at the end of the specified probationary period the charges against the defendant are dismissed, so it keeps the defendant from having a conviction or having to plead guilty or go through a trial. In the third program, the defendant does have to plead guilty but the other aspects of the program are the same.