For most people, a vacation in beautiful Cape May, NJ is a wonderful experienced filled with sun and fun. However, if you let your fun get out of hand and end up breaking the law, you can be arrested, transforming your dream vacation into a total nightmare. Especially if this is your first time being charged with a crime, you are unlikely to know exactly what steps you should take to protect yourself as you prepare to face a bail hearing and a criminal arraignment.
Whether you are a year-round Cape May resident or one of the many seasonal visitors, if you are arrested your first call should be to an experienced Cape May attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. From your arraignment and bail hearing, to plea negotiations and beyond, we can answer any questions you might have about this foreign process and work to bring your case to the best possible resolution. Call our office today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.
Arraignment after an Arrest vs. Arraignment after a Citation in Cape May
For some lesser crimes such as disorderly conduct, officers might simply issue you a citation and allow you to go on your way. The citation will either have an arraignment date on it or reference the fact that you will receive a summons in the mail shortly with an arraignment date. The arraignment usually is scheduled for a date within the next month. As such, in the case of being cited and released, you will have more time to contact an experienced Cape May, NJ attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. We can try to reach out to the prosecutor to work out a deal for the entire matter to be resolved on the date scheduled for the arraignment.
In disorderly persons offense cases where you are arrested, your arraignment will be held at or around the same time as your bail hearing, which usually occurs within 72 hours of your arrest at most. In indictable offense cases, the arraignment will not be held until later in the process, after a bail decision has been made and the grand jury has reviewed the prosecutor’s evidence and chosen to indict you. However, you should still retain an experienced Cape May arraignment attorney for the bail hearing, where a decision will be made on whether you can be released while the case is resolved.
Other than the differences in time, the arraignment process is exactly the same whether or not you are arrested and whether you are charged with a disorderly persons offense or an indictable offense.
The Pre-Arraignment Process in Cape May, NJ
Most of the time when you commit a crime, you will be arrested. If the officer sees you commit the crime personally or something else gives them probable cause to believe you committed it, they can arrest you on the spot, without a warrant. Typically, there will be a police investigation and an application for an arrest warrant based on its results. If the warrant is granted, the police will seek you out at your home or place of business to place you under arrest.
After your arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for your booking. During booking, the police will photograph and fingerprint you and collect any items you had on you at the time of your arrest for safekeeping until your release. When the booking is done, you will be escorted to the station’s holding cell or taken to the local jail to be held until your bail hearing, which is typically no more than 48 hours after booking.
How Do Cape May Criminal Arraignments Work?
A criminal arraignment is a quick and simple proceeding, at least typically, where the judge reads you the charges against you, explains your rights during the criminal court process, and asks you to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty. Unless we have already worked out some sort of plea deal with the prosecutor, an experienced attorney for a criminal arraignment in Cape May like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych is likely to advise you to plead not guilty at this stage while we request the prosecution’s evidence and assess the case’s strengths and weaknesses.
A skilled Cape May arraignment lawyer is likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while they collect more evidence and assess the case. The lawyer can also represent you at your bail hearing, which will be the first court event in an indictable offense case. Since New Jersey virtually eliminated cash bail in 2017, the judge will decide whether you can be released or whether you must be held until your criminal case is resolved. This decision is now based on a list of factors including your ties to the community, flight risk, criminal history, and the nature and severity of the crime.
When Happens after My Arraignment in a Cape May, NJ Criminal Case?
Once we have gotten you released from custody and entered your initial plea at the arraignment, we will get to work on finding a way to get the charges against you downgraded or dismissed. If you are charged with something relatively minor and do not have a serious history of criminal behavior, you may be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program.
After the arraignment and bail hearing, your Cape May criminal arraignment lawyer will likely turn their focus to negotiating a potential plea deal with the prosecutor if this is something that you are interested in. For those with clean criminal records, we may be able to convince the prosecutor that you deserve to be allowed into such a program, which, if you complete it successfully, results in the dismissal of your charges and you not having a criminal record. The components of the pre-trial diversion program will vary depending on the underlying crime involved, but can involve such things as community service, restitution, drug treatment, counseling, and staying out of further trouble with the law.
Sometimes, the prosecutor will not be willing to offer a pre-trial diversion program. In this case, we can try to work out a plea deal. One option would be the prosecutor agreeing to downgrade the original charge to something more minor, like a petty disorderly persons offense, in exchange for you agreeing to enter a guilty plea and saving the government the time and cost of putting on a trial. In other cases, in exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor may offer to give a lenient sentencing recommendation to the judge. The judge will usually honor such a recommendation by the prosecutor when handing down penalties.
If you do not wish to take a deal, our seasoned trial attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can fight for your innocence in the courtroom. Those charged with indictable offenses are entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers who must vote unanimously in order to convict. In disorderly persons offense cases, however, you are only entitled to a bench trial before a judge who will decide guilt or innocence on their own.
Call Our Experienced Cape May, NJ Attorneys for a Criminal Arraignment Today
The arraignment is usually just the start of your criminal case, but, for the best possible results, it is important that you retain a skilled Cape May criminal defense attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as early in the process as possible. The sooner we can get to work on your case, the better chance we have of getting the charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.