Criminal procedure is a complex body of laws and rules separate from criminal laws as most people understand them. The criminal procedure has less to do with crimes and more to do with how crimes are handled by the government and law enforcement.
Rules of procedure govern how the criminal justice process works. If the criminal justice process encompasses the steps and stages of a trial, the procedure dictates how each stage works and the rules that must be followed before a case can move forward. In New Jersey, there are strict procedural rules that must be followed by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and just about anyone else involved in a criminal case. When the rules are broken, there might be serious consequences. This is especially important in police stops and investigations when ordinary people might be caught off-guard by law enforcement.
Contact our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers for assistance if you were recently arrested or caught up in a criminal investigation. You can call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free case evaluation.
What is Criminal Procedure in New Jersey?
It is important to understand that criminal procedure is not the same as a criminal process. While these two concepts are certainly intertwined, they should not be conflated. The criminal justice process is more about each step and phase of a criminal case and the order in which important things happen. Criminal procedure refers more to the rules of how each stage of the process works. If a criminal procedure is not followed, the criminal process cannot move forward.
Criminal procedure lays out various rules that limit what law enforcement, attorneys, can court officials can do. For example, according to criminal procedure laws, prosecutors cannot admit evidence into a trial unless that evidence meets specific evidentiary standards (e.g., the evidence must be relevant, not overly inflammatory, and seized under a valid warrant). If the rules of procedure are not followed in your case, our South Jersey criminal defense attorneys can be there to protect your rights.
The limitations imposed by the rules of criminal procedure often protect the defendant’s rights. These rules limit things like evidence, arrests, and investigations so that defendants are not at the mercy of the government. While the government must be allowed to investigate alleged crimes and prosecute those charged with offenses, they cannot do so in a way that violates the defendant’s rights. For example, the police are allowed to seize evidence belonging to a suspect, but they cannot do so unless they have a valid search warrant authorized by a judge and supported by sufficient probable cause.
The New Jersey Criminal Justice Process and Procedures
The criminal justice process begins at arrest, after which a suspect is booked and interrogated by law enforcement. At each stage, criminal procedure must be followed, or the entire case might fall apart. Our Ocean City criminal defense attorneys can help you if law enforcement does not follow the laws of procedure.
For example, the police cannot arrest a suspect unless procedural rules regarding arrest warrants are followed. The police must obtain an arrest warrant, signed by a judge, based on probable cause that the suspect committed a crime. In cases where an arrest warrant is unnecessary, the police must be able to point to special circumstances that allow the warrantless arrest. If these procedural rules are not followed, the arrest might be invalidated, and any evidence obtained pursuant to the arrest can be suppressed.
Pretrial hearings include arraignments, bail hearings, and hearings for pretrial motions. At each stage, specific procedures must be followed. At an arraignment, the defendant must be formally notified of the charges against them, and the hearing must occur no later than 14 days after the indictment. If it takes longer than 14 days to hold the arraignment, proper procedure is not being followed, and our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys might have grounds to challenge the case.
Trials are riddled with procedural rules. From opening statements to closing remarks and jury instructions, procedure must be followed to the letter. If procedure is not followed, the trial might have to stop, and we can push for a mistrial. If the trial continues despite the errors, we can help you file an appeal.
Criminal Procedure in Police Stops and Investigations in New Jersey
Criminal procedure is particularly important during stops and investigations conducted by the police. People encounter the police almost every day. While the police have a lot of authority, they cannot make arbitrary stops or take people into custody without a good reason.
In the case of Terry v. Ohio in 1968, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the police may stop and frisk a person if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is committing or has committed a crime and might be armed. However, the reasonable suspicion needed for a Terry Stop is not enough to warrant an arrest. The police must find additional evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest. Otherwise, the suspect must be let go.
In the 1996 Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, the court decided that the police could not elicit self-incriminating statements from suspects. Under the Fifth Amendment, suspects and defendants cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves, and this right extends beyond the courtroom into the police interrogation room. Today, the police must read suspects their Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer present. If you are not informed of your Miranda rights before police interrogation, our Margate criminal defense lawyers can work to suppress any incriminating statements made to the police.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help with your Case
Procedural rules can be hard to follow at times, and even seasoned attorneys sometimes need advice on the rules of criminal procedure. For help with your case, contact our Glouchester City criminal defense lawyers. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.