BRATTLEBORO -- A Claremont, N.H., man has pleaded guilty to two heroin-possession charges -- one of them a felony -- in connection with a Bellows Falls case.

But Justin A. Simoneau, 32, will be able to avoid jail and may have the felony eventually removed from his record under a plea agreement that called for prison time that is deferred in favor of four years of probation.

On Wednesday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division, Judge David Suntag accepted Simoneau’s plea and urged him to continue to stay clean and undergo treatment.

"The benefit to having this continue is having this felony off your record in four years," Suntag said.

Bellows Falls police stopped Simoneau Feb. 6 on Westminster Street for speeding. He consented to a search of his vehicle, and police at the time said they found 96 bags of heroin.

Simoneau on Wednesday pleaded to two counts of heroin possession; one is a felony, and the other is a misdemeanor. Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver explained that heroin had been found both on Simoneau and in his vehicle.

Simoneau was sentenced to six to nine months of jail time for the misdemeanor, but that time is suspended with probation. For the felony, he received a deferred sentence of four years, during which time he will be on probation.

If Simoneau complies with the terms of that probation, he can stay out of jail and have the felony expunged from his record. The misdemeanor conviction, however, will stay on his record.

Suntag said Simoneau’s probation will include substance-abuse screening and counseling as well as a provision that "your person or your property can be searched without a warrant if there’s a reason to believe you’re possessing any regulated drugs."

Defense attorney Mimi Brill said the case’s resolution "makes sense. He has to earn getting this off his record."

Simoneau told the judge that he had been using for about seven years, saying his drug abuse "started off small ... and then worked its way up." He now is undergoing treatment and said it has been a success.

"I’ve been clean for quite a while now," Simoneau said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.