The best attorneys still use a conditional discharge or dismissal as a last resort, as opposed to an easy first resort. This is because contesting motions or a trial in municipal court can lead to a downgrading or dismissal of the charges without having to use a one-time-only diversionary program. Even a well-negotiated municipal court conviction can lead to nothing more than a fine and the ability to expunge any record of the conviction within one to five years. Since the overall consequences of a municipal court conviction pale in comparison to the very serious consequences of a superior court felony conviction, it is usually best to preserve a defendant’s superior court PTI eligibility at all costs. While a common response is for defendants to think that they learned their lesson and will never get charged with any offenses ever again, this attitude is short-sighted and unrealistic. This is because no one ever plans to get charged with an offense. Moreover, people are often wrongfully accused through no fault of their own. Even a truly innocent person who has been wrongfully accused is going to want PTI available to them as an option at the superior court level. That is because the only other means of getting a felony dismissed is most often a costly and risky jury trial. Note that a jury trial always carries risks, even with the very best of defense attorneys. This is because is not possible to guarantee that a given pool of jurors will be fair and impartial.
Note that the one common exception to when it is almost always beneficial to take a conditional discharge in municipal court is in the case of a marijuana or paraphernalia charge when the defendant is an undocumented immigrant. This is because any “drug-related” conviction or admission of guilt can be a basis for deportation. The phrase “conviction or admission of guilt” is used because even an admission of guilt as a pre-condition to the conditional discharge can be a basis for deportation. That applies even if the charge is later dismissed upon successful completion of the program. Thus, we see another nuance that highlights the importance of searching for a good criminal defense attorney, as opposed to a cheap one.