The criminal justice process can be confusing and scary, especially for those who have never dealt with law enforcement and the courts before. While you may be familiar with the general concept of a criminal case from movies and television shows, you are likely to have no idea about the reality of the specifics, including the many hearing and proceedings that may take place. One example of a lesser-known proceeding that only takes place in certain types of cases, but that can make a huge difference in the outcome sometimes, is a preliminary hearing. Below, our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain what happens at a preliminary hearing and how we can assist you at the preliminary hearing and beyond in bringing your matter to the most positive possible resolution.

What to Expect Before a Preliminary Hearing in New Jersey

Preliminary hearings only occur in some cases involving indictable offenses, New Jersey’s version of felonies, and not in cases involving disorderly persons offenses, New Jersey’s version of misdemeanors. Anytime the police believe you have committed a disorderly persons offense, they are going to place you under arrest, and you will be brought to the local station for the booking process. After you are booked, you will be held at the station or the local detention center until your initial appearance and bail hearing can be held. This usually occurs at most 48 hours after booking, but often much sooner. As such, it is vital that you reach out quickly so that you have an experienced attorney like the Avalon criminal defense attorneys like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by your side for these important proceedings.

At the initial appearance, the charges against you will be read and the judge will inform you of your rights during a criminal case. At the bail hearing, now officially known as the “detention hearing,” the judge will decide if you can be released or must remain in jail until your case is resolved. Since the virtual elimination of cash bail in NJ in 2017, the judge makes this decision based on a series of holistic factors, including your criminal history or lack thereof and your ties and contributions to the local community. Our experienced Atlantic City bail reductions lawyers know how to make the best argument based on these and other factors to get you released without any difficult conditions.

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing in NJ?

You should certainly always have a lawyer before you go into a preliminary hearing or any other court event. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution will have to present their evidence to the judge and show that there is probable cause for the case to move forward. For this reason, it is also commonly called a “probable cause hearing.” It is essentially used to weed out really weak cases that the judge believes have no chance of succeeding and would therefore be a waste of judicial resources to carry on with. In some cases, it may be wise to waive the hearing. It is best to consult with a skilled preliminary hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych who can advise you on what is best to do in your case.

What Happens after a Preliminary Hearing in NJ?

In indictable offense cases, the arraignment, where you enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty, occurs in the superior court after the probable cause hearing if one occurred and after the grand jury has reviewed the evidence and returned an indictment. As such, there are multiple procedural hurdles for these types of crimes before you can even be charged officially. If the grand jury returns an indictment and you are ultimately arraigned, our skilled Atlantic City criminal arraignment attorneys are likely to advise you to plead not guilty while we collect all of the evidence, assess the strength of the case, and try to work out a deal with the prosecutor to get the charges downgraded or dismissed.

In some cases for first-time offenders, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you into a pre-trial intervention program, which, if completed successfully, will result in your charges being dropped. However, this is not often offered for indictable offense cases. Instead, the prosecutor is more likely to offer to downgrade your charges to something less serious, such as from an indictable offense to a disorderly persons offense, or to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge in exchange for you entering a guilty plea and saving the state the time and money required to put on a trial. The judge will almost always accept the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation.

If you do not wish to take a deal, or are not satisfied with what has been offered, our battle-tested Sea Isle City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are ready to fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom. In an indictable offense case, you have the right to a trial before a jury of your peers, who must vote unanimously in order to convict you. We will work to present evidence and witnesses and aggressively question the evidence and witnesses produce by the government against you in order to make it clear to the jury that the prosecutor cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Call Our Atlantic City, New Jersey Preliminary Hearing Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

Anytime you face a court hearing, including a preliminary hearing, you should make certain that you are represented by experience counsel like the criminal defense team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. In fact, you should reach out to us as soon as are arrested so that we can get to work as quickly as possible on mitigating the damage, getting you out of jail, and working to get the charges against you dismissed. For a free consultation, call our firm today at (609) 616-4956.