How Long Can You Be Held in Custody after Being Charged in NJ?

Being arrested can be an incredibly terrifying experience, especially if you have no prior contact with the criminal justice system. You may worry about future penalties and damage to your reputation that could come with a potential criminal conviction. For many people, however, the most immediate fear in their mind is about spending time in jail. Nobody thinks of jail as a positive experience and nobody wants to spend even a night behind bars. Below, our seasoned Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain how long you can be held in detention after being arrested in New Jersey, what steps to take to make sure that time is as short as possible, and how the rest of your criminal case will play out.

Time in Custody After an Arrest in New Jersey

One you have been arrested, you will be taken either to the police station or to the county detention center for booking. The booking process is where the police collect your basic biographical and background information to process you in their system. They will also fingerprint you and take a “mug shot” photograph for their records. Finally, you will be searched and any of your personal items will be inventoried until you are released.

After this, how long you can be held depends on whether or not the prosecutor decides to file a motion asking for your detention while you await trial. Most of the time, this only happens with regard to indictable offenses, New Jersey’s version of felonies. If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense, New Jersey’s version of misdemeanors, the police will typically only hold you for as long as it takes to complete the booking process. This is usually fairly quick, but it can take up to 24 hours if things are busy. Once you have been fully processed, you will be released with a summons to appear in court on your arraignment date.

In the case of an indictable offense, if the prosecutor chooses to file a detention motion, you can be held in jail for up to 48 hours while the state gathers background information on you and schedules a detention hearing before a judge. This hearing used to be known as a bail hearing, but, in 2017, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill essentially doing away with cash bail. As such, it is officially called a detention hearing now, although the term bail hearing is still sometimes used.

At the detention hearing, the judge will consider a number of factors to decide whether you can be released pre-trial or must be held in detention while your case plays out. The judge also has the option of releasing you with conditions, such as house arrest or putting you on a GPS ankle bracelet monitor. The experienced bail hearing defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych understand the factors that a judge considers most important when deciding whether to release you, including the seriousness of your offense, your ties to the community, your history of steady employment, and your potential flight risk. They can argue that you should be released without conditions.

What Happens After a Custody Determination in New Jersey?

After your detention hearing, you will hopefully be released. However, if the judge rules that you are a danger to the public or a flight risk and must be detained, you can be kept behind bars until your criminal matter reaches a final resolution. Whether you are released or remain in jail, what happens next will depend on whether you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense or an indictable offense.

Disorderly Persons Offenses

Disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey are handled through the municipal court system. You will be arraigned in municipal court and, if you choose to take your case to trial, your trial will take place in the municipal court as well. One major difference in the New Jersey municipal court system is that you are not entitled to a trial by jury. Instead, a judge will listen to the evidence and testimony and then find you guilty or not guilty of the crime alleged.

Indictable Offenses

If you are charged with an indictable offense and held in detention, you could spend up to 90 days in jail just waiting for the initial indictment to be handed down. For these offenses, the prosecutor must take their case before a grand jury of 23 citizens. The grand jurors will consider the evidence and, if they feel it is sufficient, will hand down an indictment. The case will then be sent to the county superior court for disposition.

The case must be tried or otherwise resolved in the superior court within 180 days of an indictment. This means that you could spend another six months in detention awaiting a trial if you are indicted and are not released by the judge. In the case of an indictable offense, you do have the right to a trial by jury and the jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict you.


If you are convicted, you will have a sentencing hearing where the judge will decide what penalties to impose on you for your crime. For both disorderly persons offenses and indictable offenses, this could include sentencing you to more time behind bars. An experienced sentencing hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you make the case to the judge that you deserve to be given leniency in your sentence.

If You Have Been Arrested and Are Concerned about the Possibility of Spending Time in Jail, Call Us Today

It is likely that if you arrested, you will spend at least a few hours in a holding cell while you are booked and processed. However, having an experienced criminal defense attorney like the team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych fight for you at your detention hearing can mean the difference between spending months behind bars awaiting your trial and being free to resume your life. Our attorneys can also effectively try your case and, if necessary, advocate for you at a sentencing hearing to keep you from spending a long time behind bars. If you or a loved one has been arrested, call us right away at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.

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