Cape May County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal charges are frustrating, intimidating, and embarrassing to deal with. Being charged with a crime can be very scary as the judicial process is usually long and complicated and the courts tend to be very unforgiving. Criminal charges are also embarrassing. Nobody wants their friends, family, and neighbors to know they have been charged with committing a crime. Confronting your criminal charges is a difficult job best handled by a qualified and experienced attorney.
Facing criminal charges does not have to be such a challenging experience. Our Cape May County criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the charges against you, craft an effective defense, and advocate on your behalf in a court of law. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free and confidential legal consultation with our team.
Criminal Charges in Cape May County
In New Jersey, the path of your case will depend significantly on the nature of your charges. Some charges are minimal and the penalties small. Other charges are quite serious, and the penalties can be severe and long-lasting. New Jersey breaks criminal offenses down into three broad categories: crimes, disorderly persons offenses, and petty disorderly persons offenses.
Crimes are regarded as serious offenses and are punishable by jail or prison terms. The category of crimes is divided into subcategories based on the severity of the offense. These subcategories include first, second, third, and fourth-degree crimes. Fourth-degree crimes are the least serious and carry the lightest penalties, while first-degree crimes are the most severe and have very harsh penalties.
A fourth-degree crime can be punished by no more than 18 months in prison. A third-degree crime carries penalties from at least 3 years but no more than 5 years in prison. A second-degree crime is punishable by a prison term of no less than 5 years but no more than 10 years. Finally, a first-degree crime can be punished by at least 10 years in prison but no more than 20 years. While most crimes will fit into this system of penalties, some of the more serious crimes, like murder, may carry different ranges of punishments that can go beyond the terms listed above. Our Cape May County criminal defense attorney can help you make sense of your charges and understand the potential penalties.
Disorderly Person Offenses
Disorderly persons offenses are less severe than crimes in Cape May County. These kinds of offenses may be punished by no more than 6 months in jail. The exact time served will be determined by the judge at your sentencing. Included within disorderly persons offenses are even lesser violations known as petty disorderly persons offenses. These offenses can also be punished with jail time, but no more than 30 days. Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses are not considered “crimes” in New Jersey and so defendants do not have the same trial rights they would under different circumstances. A defendant charged with a disorderly persons offense has no right to a grand jury nor a right to a trial by jury. These offenses are relatively minor and are punished more often by fines than jail time. No matter how severe or minor your charges may be, our Cape May County criminal defense attorneys are here to help.
Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses
Petty disorderly persons offenses are even less serious than disorderly persons offenses. Much like their above-mentioned counterpart, petty disorderly offenses are not considered “crimes” and defendants do not have typical trial rights under these charges. Petty disorderly persons offenses are most often punished with fines. They are rarely punished with jail time. Common examples of these kinds of offenses are minor traffic violations, jaywalking, or littering. Many of these offenses are dealt with by issuing citations or tickets.
Defending Your Rights in Court in Cape May County
All criminal defendants in Cape May County are entitled to defend themselves against their criminal charges in a court of law. However, different offenses will necessitate different defenses. An “affirmative defense” is one in which the defendant committed the criminal act, but did so under conditions that excuse, justify, or otherwise limit their criminal culpability. This includes defenses like self-defense, duress, and insanity.
It is also possible to defend yourself by arguing that the prosecution cannot meet its burden to secure a conviction. Prosecutors must prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden as it must leave almost no room to question the defendant’s guilt. If prosecutors cannot prove every element of the alleged crimes, the defendant can argue that the prosecution has not met its burden.
Additionally, there are defenses based on constitutional rights and criminal procedure. If the proper criminal procedure is not adhered to by law enforcement or prosecutors, or the defendant’s Constitutional rights are violated, the defendant may use this as grounds for a defense. For example, all defendants have a Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Unless you give consent or other exigent circumstances exist, law enforcement must get a search warrant in order to search a defendant’s home for evidence. If the police fail to obtain a search warrant and conduct a search anyway, the defendant’s rights have been violated and the evidence may be excluded from the trial.
Contact our Cape May County criminal defense lawyers to discuss what defenses will work best for your case.
Facing Charges in Criminal Courts in Cape May County, NJ
Where your case begins will depend on what kind of charges you face. If your charges are less serious disorderly persons offenses, your case will most likely start in municipal court. The vast majority of cases filed in New Jersey will begin in Municipal Court. This includes minor crimes, traffic violations, hunting and fishing law violations, and more. If you have been charged with something more serious, such as a crime rather than a disorderly persons offense, your case will likely begin in superior court.
Most offenses charged as crimes will start in this court. For both courts, there are numerous courthouses across New Jersey. Your trial’s exact location will depend on where your crime allegedly took place. Navigating the court system in New Jersey can be difficult, but our Cape May County criminal defense attorneys can guide you.
Contact Our Cape May County Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal charges in Cape May County, please reach out to our Cape May County criminal defense lawyer for help. We are prepared to fight for your rights and defend against your charges in court. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation regarding your case.