Ocean City, NJ is one of the premiere summer tourist destinations for families looking to vacation on the Jersey Shore. While the worst thing to happen to most people on a trip to Ocean City, NJ is a sunburn, your vacation plans can quickly go south if your behavior gets out of hand and you end up arrested. Especially if this is your first time dealing with charges in the criminal justice system, you may not know who to call or what to do to prepare for the bail hearing and criminal arraignment you will soon face.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Ocean City, NJ attorneys for a criminal arraignment have years of experience successfully defending both tourists and year-round Ocean City residents charged with all sorts of crimes. We will be there by your side from the beginning of your case to the end, from your arraignment to a trial if one is necessary, fighting to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (609) 616-4956.
Pre-Arraignment Events in an Ocean City, NJ Criminal Case
Before there can be an arraignment in a criminal case, there must be a citation or an arrest. For some minor, lower-level crimes, such as underage drinking or most traffic offenses, the officer will simply issue you a citation and allow you to go on your way. The citation will either have an arraignment date on it or will indicate that a summons will be sent shortly with an arraignment date. Being cited rather than arrested gives you the advantage of more time, as the arraignment will probably not be scheduled for a couple of weeks at least. However, you should still contact an experienced Ocean City, NJ attorney for a criminal arraignment as soon after you are cited as possible so we can get to work requesting evidence and attempting to work out a deal with the prosecutor for the matter to be resolved on the arraignment date.
In most cases when the police believe you have committed a crime, you will be arrested. After you arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for the booking process, which involves fingerprinting and photographing you among other things. After booking, you will likely be held in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail until your bail hearing can occur, usually within 72 hours at the absolute most. It is important that you have an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych to represent you at this hearing, where the judge will decide if and how you can be released while the case proceeds through the court system.
The Criminal Arraignment in Ocean City, NJ
The arraignment itself is relatively brief and simple. The judge will read the charges against you, advise you of your rights in the criminal justice system, and ask you to enter an initial guilty or not guilty plea. Unless they have already worked out a plea deal with the prosecutor, your lawyer is likely to advise you to plead not guilty while they request discovery and assess the strength of the case.
When the arraignment occurs will vary depending on whether you are charged with a disorderly persons offense, New Jersey’s version of a misdemeanor, or an indictable offense, New Jersey’s version of a felony. For disorderly persons offenses, the arraignment will occur shortly after your arrest, at or around the same time as your bail hearing if one occurs. For felony offenses, the arraignment will not occur until later, as the prosecutor will still need to take the case before a grand jury who must assess the evidence and choose whether to indict. If they indict you, then you will be arraigned in the superior court.
Entering a Plea at Your Ocean County, New Jersey Criminal Arraignment
You will be given the opportunity to enter a plea at your criminal arraignment. You can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. It is important to discuss your plea with an attorney ahead of time as each has different consequences.
If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule your trial, and preparations by prosecutors and your defense attorney will begin. This plea can be changed later if you choose. If you are still unsure how you should plead, it may be wise to enter a not guilty plea and request to adjust it later if necessary.
If you plead guilty, you will waive your right to a trial, and the judge will begin preparations for sentencing. This plea should not be taken lightly as it is much harder to change later. A guilty plea may also limit your options on appeal. The appeals process is designed to look for legal errors during your trial. If you plead guilty, there is no trial, and your appeal options are restricted.
A no-contest plea has a similar effect as a guilty plea because it triggers the sentencing phase while waiving your right to a trial. However, a no-contest plea is technically not an admission of guilt that can be used against you in a related civil case. It is more like an admission that prosecutors are likely to prove their case against you.
For help deciding how to plead in your criminal case, call our Ocean County, New Jersey criminal arraignment attorneys for guidance.
Post-Arraignment Events in an Ocean City, NJ Criminal Case
After your bail hearing and arraignment have been dealt with, our skilled criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can begin to work on getting your charges downgraded or dismissed. In some cases where you have committed a relatively minor crime and have a relatively clean criminal record, you may be eligible for a program known as pre-trial diversion. If w can an convince the prosecutor to allow you into such a program, your charges will be dropped and you will have a clean criminal record upon successful completion. The program will vary depending on your charges, but might include such things as defensive driving courses, community service, and mandated check-ins with social workers.
If pre-trial diversion is not on the table in your case, we can try to work out a deal where the prosecutor downgrades the charge to something less serious. We can also try to work out a deal where the prosecutor recommends a lenient sentence to the judge if you agree to enter a guilty plea and save the state the time and money required to put on a trial. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal or are not satisfied with any of the prosecutor’s officers, our skilled trial lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are always ready to fight for a not guilty verdict, whether at a jury trial or a bench trial, where the judge alone decides guilt or innocence. Note than in disorderly persons offense cases, a bench trial is your only option.
Call Our Battle-Tested Ocean County, NJ Lawyers for a Criminal Arraignment Today
The criminal arraignment is unfortunately usually just the beginning of what can be a long and arduous journey through the criminal justice system. However, with an experienced Ocean City, NJ lawyer for a criminal arraignment like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by your side, you will have a much greater chance of navigating this journey to an ultimately successful conclusion. We will leave no stone unturned fighting to protect your rights and your future. Call our office today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.