New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers
The criminal justice system is very serious, and being accused of a crime – even a relatively minor one – can have huge impacts on your life. Even for relatively minor offenses, you can be arrested. Fines and court costs can be expensive. Potentials for jail time, or even forced supervision from probation and bail, puts serious constraints on your ability to freely travel, follow your own schedule, and do what you want to do. Your freedom is literally at stake when you are accused of a crime.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, we are experienced in handling a wide variety of criminal offenses around New Jersey in state and federal courts. We frequently appear in courts in South Jersey such as Mays Landing in Atlantic County, Cape May Courthouse in Cape May County, Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Pleasantville, Margate, Vineland, Camden, Mount Holly, Bridgeton, Toms River, Wildwood, Absecon and Somers Point.
Crimes or Indictable Offenses in New Jersey
In many states, crimes are classified as misdemeanors and felonies. However, in New Jersey, offenses that carry more severe potential sentences are deemed “crimes” or “indictable” offenses. These are offenses for which a convicted person can receive a New Jersey state prison sentence.
All of the attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have a great deal of experience handling these serious crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, drug distribution, drug possession, theft, computer crimes, and gun charges. Arrests for these offenses will appear on your criminal record unless they are expunged, even if they are dismissed.
Disorderly Persons Offenses, Municipal Court Cases
Those offenses that carry less severe potential sentences are called “disorderly persons offenses,” “petty disorderly persons offenses” and “local ordinances.” The potential sentences for these offenses can still be significant and should be handled with caution.
Disorderly persons offense sentences such as possession of marijuana under 50 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting, theft of less than $200 and a first offense of engaging in prostitution, carry a potential sentence of up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. Arrests for these offenses will appear on your criminal record, unless they are expunged, even if they are dismissed.
What To Expect in New Jersey Criminal Court
The court process is intimidating for many. While there is no way to predict what will happen in your individual situation, understanding what to expect in the court process can help alleviate some of the fear of the unknown.
In New Jersey, the criminal process typically begins when someone is charged with an offense, indicted by a grand jury or arrested. However, if you have not been charged with a crime, but have been asked to speak with police or have other indications that you are under investigation, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. This is a critical period in your case. Do not wait until you are charged. Do not speak with police without consulting an experienced defense attorney first.
After being charged with a crime, you will have an opportunity to go before a judge and enter your initial plea.
Bail is a sum of money that must be pledged as security for your release. Although the prosecution does not always request bail, bail is common for any crime where the judge may have concerns that you present either a flight risk or could be a danger to others. Factors, such as the seriousness of the offense and whether you have any history of failing to appear and your ties to the community may influence the amount of bail assigned.
Status Conferences/Plea Negotiations
In many cases the client and her attorney will appear in court for a series of Status conferences. Demands for discovery by the defense, pretrial motions and plea offers are addressed at these hearings. The prosecution will frequently offer a plea bargain, which is typically a reduced sentence or plea to a reduced charge in exchange for a guilty plea. Your lawyers will make recommendations about whether you should accept or reject the plea, but the ultimate decision about whether to plead or take you case to trial is yours alone to make.
The purpose pretrial conference is to ensure that a defendant understands the potential convictions and sentences if he is found guilty at trial, to determine that he is making a voluntary decision to reject any plea offer, to discuss any outstanding discovery and evidentiary issues, schedule the appearance of experts if needed and schedule pre-trial motions. After the pretrial has taken place, negotiations are closed and a case is set for trial.
If a plea deal or a dismissal has not been occurred, and you have elected to go to trial on the charges, a date for the trial will be set. The prosecution presents its cases before a jury or judge. A defendant is not required to testify at trial and his silence at trial cannot be used against him. Generally speaking, the defense attorneys will present opening statements, cross examine the State’s witnesses, often but not always, call defense witnesses, and make a closing argument.
Can You Handle a Case Without a Lawyer in New Jersey?
Technically, you can handle a case yourself – but it is not a good idea. If someone wants to represent themselves in court – called proceeding “pro se” – they are held to the same standards, rules, and deadlines that someone who has studied for three years in law school and passed the bar in New Jersey would be held to. That means they are responsible for knowing the Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Evidence, courtroom etiquette, how to talk to a judge, how to talk to opposing counsel, how to receive discovery, how to file motions, and what to write in a motion.
What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do For You?
A criminal defense attorney is a protection between a defendant and authority. Police and prosecutors have the goal of putting people in jail and getting convictions, and judges are only there to make sure things are somewhat fair. Without a criminal defense attorney, there is no one else in your corner when you are accused of a crime. You might have family and friends to support you, but they are legally barred from helping in your defense; only an attorney is permitted to stand up for you.
Most crimes – especially common crimes like drug possession, driving while intoxicated, theft, etc. – are not especially unique. After a few years of practice, defense attorneys have seen that most cases follow a pattern and know how to handle them because they have handled similar cases before. This experience helps them identify holes in the case, missing proof, and where a plea deal is most effective.
Nearly every case that goes through the criminal justice system ends without a trial – but that does not mean they are simple. There are still deadlines, arguments to be made before a judge, motions to file, and requests to be made in every case. These require an attorney’s ability and experience to properly frame the issues, properly file documents, and make the right arguments. Attorneys also bring their knowledge of other cases and their outcomes to the table. Without an attorney, you miss out on most of these opportunities, and may lose your freedom because of it.
Not only does hiring an attorney put a trained, experienced professional in your corner, it takes the pressure off you. An attorney’s job encompasses advice, strategy, negotiation, education, and analysis – they provide a full service to clients. Without an attorney, this pressure is all on you.
Why Hiring a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Matters
The best way of protecting your freedom and reputation is to have an experienced defense attorney by your side. Without an attorney to advocate for you, the prosecution holds the advantage because they have better knowledge of the law. You will also have no way of knowing whether the plea bargain offered by the prosecution is in your best interest to accept.
A skilled criminal defense attorney is your shield. Having an attorney to advocate for you gives you leverage, because your attorney will be able to assess the strength of the case against you. An attorney will thoroughly examine the facts of the case and look for any weaknesses in the case against you. She can conduct further investigation that tends to show you are innocent. An attorney will also be able to negotiate on your behalf and if necessary, fight for you at trial.
What You Can Expect From Us
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, you can count on our attorneys to provide you with a thorough examination of your case. If you retain our firm, we will review your case with you and make sure you understand the process. We will take the time to answer your questions and address any fears you may be having.
We will thoroughly research your case and present the strongest argument possible on your behalf. We never lose sight of the fact that your future is on the line. We are your advocates, every step of the way.
If You Were Arrested in New Jersey, Our Attorneys Can Help
Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer by calling our offices in Northfield, Atlantic City, Cape May Court House or Wildwood at (609) 616-4956.
We also serve Mays Landing, Toms River, Bridgeton, Brigantine, Ventnor, Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Buena Vista Township, Hamilton Township, Galloway Township, Camden, Mount Holly, Salem and Vineland.
Lawyers are available seven days a week, including holidays.