In New Jersey, crimes that are known as misdemeanors in other states are referred to as disorderly persons offenses, while crimes usually called felonies elsewhere are referred to here as indictable offenses. Sometimes, misdemeanor and felony are still used casually to describe these types of crimes even if they are not the technical legal names. Of the two types of charges, misdemeanors, or disorderly persons offenses in NJ, are the less serious type. However, this does not mean that they cannot lead to severe penalties if convicted, such as hefty fines and long jails sentences. The best thing you can do to avoid the harshest penalties and give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome is to hire an experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon as possible after your arrest or citation. Below, our lawyers explain when you should retain us, how a disorderly persons offense case works, and how we can help get your charges downgraded or dismissed.
When Do I Need a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor in New Jersey?
As noted above, “misdemeanors” in NJ are referred to in the court system as disorderly persons offenses, so this is how we will refer to them in this article. Sometimes, for low level disorderly persons offenses like disorderly conduct, the police many simply write you a citation with a court date on it for your arraignment and let you go on your way. If this happens to you, reaching out to a skilled criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon as possible will give us the chance to potentially work out a deal with the prosecutor for the entire matter to be resolved on the date of your arraignment. Usually, however, when the police suspect you of committing a disorderly persons offense, you will be arrested and transported to the local police station for the booking process.
As soon after your arrest as possible, it is vital that you or a loved one reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney like those on the team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. We will want to be present for any type of questioning the police may try to conduct to ensure that you do not answer any questions that you do not have to or say something inadvertently that could hurt your case later. You will also want us to be present for your bail hearing and arraignment, which will occur around the same time in disorderly persons offense cases, usually no more than 48 hours after your booking. Although cash bail was virtually eliminated in New Jersey in 2017, our lawyers can help get you released quickly without any cumbersome conditions. Our skilled attorneys for a criminal arraignment are likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we request discovery and determine how strong the state’s case is.
How Can a NJ Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me Get my Misdemeanor Charges Downgraded or Dismissed?
After we have dealt with your arraignment and getting you out of jail, our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can focus our attentions on getting the underlying charges downgraded or dismissed. There are a large number of different charges that are disorderly person offenses, ranging from simple assault to DUI, and how and what we can do will always depend on the specifics of your case. In some disorderly persons offense cases, especially if this is your first ever charge, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you into what is known as pre-trial intervention program. If you successfully complete this program, which may include such components as drug of alcohol counseling, community service, and staying out of further trouble for a certain period of time, the charges against you will be dropped and you will not have a criminal record, although a record of your arrest may still exist.
In most cases, especially if you have any sort of serious criminal record, pre-trial intervention will not be on the table no matter how hard we lobby the prosecutor on your behalf. However, this does not mean that we will not be able to reach some sort of plea deal with the prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor may offer to downgrade the charges to something less serious, like a petty disorderly persons offense, New Jersey’s version of infractions, if you agree to plead guilty and save the state the time and cost of a trial. Another possibility is the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence in exchange for your plea.
How Does a Disorderly Persons Offense Trial Work in NJ?
If you do not wish to take a deal or are not satisfied with the deals offered by the prosecutor, our skilled trial attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are ready and able to fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom. One of the biggest differences between a disorderly persons offenses and an indictable offense in New Jersey is the way that a potential trial will be conducted. Unlike indictable offense cases, in disorderly persons offense cases you do not have the right to a trial before a jury of your peers, where they must vote unanimously to convict you. Instead, the trial will be a “bench trial,” meaning that it will be conducted entirely before a single judge who decides guilt or innocence themselves. You should speak with your lawyer about whether such a trial could present unique advantages or disadvantages in your case.
If You Are Facing a Disorderly Persons (Misdemeanor) Offense Charge, Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
Disorderly persons offense charges can come with serious consequences, including jail sentences and a criminal record that could negatively impact your future. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our battle-tested criminal defense lawyers have years of experience successfully defending our clients charged with all sorts of disorderly persons offense crimes throughout the state of NJ. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free consultation.