That changed on Wednesday, when he was sworn in as an attorney by state Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Stuart Rabner.
If not for guidance from his own attorney in 2012, things may not have turned out this way for 33-year-old Hacker.
"If you put everything you have into something, if you want something bad enough, anything is possible," Hacker said.
Hacker -- who spent his nights under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Camden -- was facing five years in prison after violating his probation in 2012, when he was charged with drug possession.
His attorney told him he had another option, drug court.
"She told me, 'I've handled a lot of people like you and it never ends up good,'" Hacker said in a video.
"In a weird way reality kind of hit, I was going to die, either on the street or in prison."
Hacker's lawyer urged him to "give himself a chance." He'd just come out of prison and was already clean.
"You have nowhere to go but up," she told him. "You have nothing. But you have an opportunity to change your life."
And so, Hacker moved into a recovery house while enrolled in the state's drug court program in July 2012. Two years later, he graduated drug court.
That day, he says, was a scary one.
"I knew what I did to get drugs and get high," he said, "and now you're setting me free. "I always ended up right back on the street or locked back up."
By then he was doing a lot, he had returned to school and even had a good job. Hacker didn't want to jeopardize any of those things, he said.
He enrolled in Burlington County Community College. His plan was to get straight As so he could go back to Rutgers University, where he'd previously been kicked out of for his run ins with the police.
It worked. Hacker returned to Rutgers University and graduated at the top of his class with a political science degree.
Then came Rutgers-Camden Law School.
Drug court, however, is where Hacker says he learned responsibility, accountability and discipline. And was able to stay nine years clean.
"Graduating drug court is my greatest accomplishment in my life... and by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "It's the first thing other than graduating high school I ever completed.
"It represents surviving something much more than a bunch of school work, classes and exams. It represents surviving the horrors of addiction, making it out alive.
"When I earn a law school degree that will be placed below my drug court diploma."
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