The criminal process in New Jersey can be confusing and disorienting. Especially if you have never been previously charged with a crime, you may not understand what your charges mean or even if you are facing actual charges at all. In addition, even if you find out there are charges pending against you in New Jersey, you may be completely unsure how to respond to this situation to best serve your interests and protect your rights. In the following post, our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych help guide you through the criminal charging process in New Jersey.
How to Know If Criminal Charges Have Been Filed Against You in New Jersey
If a criminal charge has been filed against you in New Jersey, you should have been made aware of the charge through contact with the authorities. However, if you are unsure whether or not you have been officially charged, you can type your information into the NJ Courts website and check to see if any charges against you are currently pending. Many other sites on the internet will claim to be able to tell you if there are pending charges against you, but these sites are largely unreliable. If you are unsure if you have charges against you, your best bet is to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych who can do some research for you and find out where your case stands.
If you have been given some sort of summons to appear in court after an arrest or some sort of contact with law enforcement officers, this is almost certainly a sign that charges have been filed. This can be contrasted with a situation where the police have merely asked you for information or to come in for an interview but have not arrested you. In this scenario, you could be under investigation for a crime even if you have not yet been actually charged with one.
It is important to note that even if the police tell you that you are not a suspect, you may very well still be under investigation. Many people believe that their legal rights do not begin until they have actually been charged with a crime, but this is not at all true. During all stages of an investigation you have rights, and an attorney like those at our firm can help to make sure that they are respected. If you are called in for an interview, you should not talk to the police without an attorney present, as the police can twist your words and later use them against you. If the police try to search your home, you should never consent to them doing so unless they have a warrant.
How the Criminal Charging Process Works in New Jersey
There are two main ways you might be charged with a crime in the state of New Jersey. Sometimes, you may be arrested right on the spot, as in the case of a DUI charge. In this scenario, you will be taken to the police station and booked and likely released with a summons to appear in court on a particular date. In other cases, an investigation may be conducted into the commission of a particular crime. When the police are satisfied that their investigation has produced enough evidence to charge a certain person with the crime, they will go before a judge to have an arrest warrant for that person approved.
Typically, your first court appearance on a criminal charge in New Jersey will be for what is known as an arraignment. If the crime is serious, you may be held in jail while waiting to be arraigned. For less serious crimes, you may simply be issued a summons to appear in court for your arraignment at a later date. If you fail to appear, a judge could issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
You may also have what is known as a detention hearing to determine whether or not you will be released on bail or held in jail pending the resolution of your case. Factors that will be considered in deciding whether you will be released on bail include your financial situation and your ties to the community. If you are released on bail, you must continue to appear for all required court appearances, or your bail can be revoked and you can be remanded to jail.
Disorderly Persons Offenses vs. Indicatable Offenses in New Jersey
In New Jersey, rather than misdemeanors and felonies, the terms disorderly persons offenses and indictable offenses are used to distinguish between classes of crimes in terms of their severity. Disorderly persons offenses are handled through the municipal court system and typically result in lesser penalties. Indictable offenses are handled through the superior court system. In these cases, the charges must be brought before a grand jury comprised of ordinary citizens who will decide whether or not to issue an indictment. If an indictment is issued the case will proceed to the trial stage. Indictable offenses usually involve severe penalties including long prison sentences.
Types of disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey include simple assault, shoplifting, and possession of marijuana under 50 grams. Types of indictable offenses include rape, manslaughter, murder, and kidnapping.
If You Have Been Charged or Are Afraid You Have Been Charged with a Crime in New Jersey, Call Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
For the average person who has never had previous contact with the law, facing criminal charges can be not only stressful, but also downright baffling. Even if the police give you a summons, you may not be sure when and if you need to appear in court or whether you should have an attorney to represent your interests. You may not understand what possible penalties you may face.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our seasoned criminal defense attorneys are here to help you navigate through the system. We can be your counselor, obtaining information about potential charges against you and advising you of what steps you need to take to help your case. We will also be passionate fighters for your rights and your side of the story in the courtroom. If you are concerned about facing criminal charges, call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free and confidential consultation.