Being arrested can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can face in life. Your knowledge of criminal arrests may stem only from television shows and movies, and thus you may have questions about how the process works in real life. It is common for people to think they have certain rights when being arrested that they do not actually have and to think that they must do certain things that they do not have to do. Below, our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych walk you through the arrest process in New Jersey and what happens in its aftermath, and we explain whether the police have to tell you why they are arresting you.
Your Rights When Arrested in New Jersey
There are two main ways that you might be arrested for a crime in New Jersey. Sometimes, police officers will arrest you on the spot or immediately after the commission of a crime if they either witnessed you commit the crime personally or have a reasonable belief based on witness testimony or other evidence to conclude you are the person who committed the crime. In this case, it will likely be fairly obvious why you are being arrested.
In other cases, the police will conduct an investigation into a crime that has been reported to them. The investigation may involve interviewing witnesses and suspects, collecting evidence, and looking into DNA matches. It could take days, weeks, or months. Once the police are satisfied that they have enough evidence to pin the crime on a particular individual, they will apply for an arrest warrant with a judge and move to place that person under arrest.
If it has been a long time since the alleged crime occurred or you are being falsely accused of the crime, you may have no idea why you are being arrested when the police show up with a warrant. Unfortunately, so long as they have a valid warrant, the police are not required to tell you the reason you are being arrested, but they will often tell you voluntarily.
Another thing to note is that, contrary to popular belief, the police do not have to read you “Miranda warnings” as soon as they arrest you. They can wait to read these warnings (such as “you have the right to remain silent”) until they interrogate you. It is vital, then, to understand that you should not volunteer any information to the police during the arrest or the drive to the station that might incriminate you later. If the police violated these rights and committed illegal search and seizure violations, we can fight to have illegal evidence suppressed in court.
What Happens After You Get Arrested in New Jersey
Once the police have you in their custody, if they choose to ask you questions about the crime you are alleged to have committed, it is considered a custodial interrogation. Once a custodial interrogation occurs, the police are required to read you your Miranda rights, such as that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. You should never answer any of the police officers’ questions until you have an attorney with you because, even if you have nothing to hide, the officers can twist your words and anything you say will later be held against you in court.
The next steps in this process will depend on whether you are being charged with an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense.
Disorderly Persons Offenses
A disorderly persons offense, which is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other states, goes through the municipal court system. If you are charged with one of these offenses, you will be arraigned in the local municipal court. At the arraignment, the judge will inform you of what your charges are if you have not already been informed by the police. You will likely be given a summons and released with instructions to return on a certain date. Your attorney may attempt to negotiate a deal with the local prosecutor so your case can be resolved before going to trial. Sometimes, your attorney may be able to get you into a program known as pre-trial intervention (PTI), where the charges are dismissed if you complete educational programs and other programs mandated by the court.
For indictable offenses, often known as felonies in other states, the process will be transferred from the municipal court to the superior court. The prosecutor will then take the charges against you before a grand jury. The prosecutor will present the evidence that the police have collected, and the grand jury will decide whether there is enough there to “indict” you on the charge. Within 14 days of such an indictment, an arraignment will be held where you are read your charges and asked whether you would like to plead guilty or not guilty.
Especially in the case of indictable offenses, a bail hearing may be held after your arrest to determine whether you will have to stay in jail until the grand jury decides whether or not to indict you. A skilled criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych understands which arguments can be most persuasive in getting the judge to release you on no bail or limited bail. The factors that a judge considers in deciding bail include your risk of skipping bail, your ties to the community through your family and your job, your financial situation, the severity of the crime you are alleged to have committed, and whether you might be a risk to the public if released.
If You Have Been Arrested, Call Us Today for a Free Legal Consultation
If you have been arrested, you should refrain from speaking to the police, and your first call should be to a lawyer who can properly represent your interests and protect your rights. You may be tempted to think that if you are not guilty of the crime alleged, you have nothing to hide and therefore you should do whatever the police ask. However, if the police have charged you with a crime, they are going to do everything they can to prove you committed it, and you should not give them any help in doing so. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.