Being charged with a crime in New Jersey does not necessarily mean you have to face the penalties. Many charges are dropped or dismissed before you face any penalties, or as part of an agreement with the prosecution. Assault charges can carry hefty fines and jail time, plus place a violent crime on your criminal record. The Atlantic City assault defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain when assault charges can be dropped in New Jersey, and how you might be able to achieve this kind of outcome.
What’s the Difference Between Dropped, Dismissed, and Acquitted in NJ?
When you are charged with a crime, the government needs to prove you committed it or get you to plead guilty before you can face any penalties for this crime. If you are arrested and sent to jail, this jail time is not a punishment, per se, but you can usually apply time served toward later penalties if you are convicted. However, most judges in New Jersey should allow you to remain free before trial if you are charged with lower-level crimes like disorderly persons offenses, which can include simple assault charges.
As your case goes through the pretrial and trial process, it can have multiple outcomes. These descriptions can help you understand the possible end results you face when charged with a crime in NJ:
- Guilty plea – You can plead guilty to a crime and accept the penalties and fines that come with a conviction.
- No-contest plea – These pleas are rare, but essentially involve not fighting the charges and accepting the punishments without precisely admitting guilt.
- Found guilty – If you plead innocent and take your case to trial, the jury can find you guilty after hearing all evidence. This means you will need to face penalties.
- Acquittal – If the jury finds you not guilty, you will be acquitted of charges. This means the case against you ends, you win, and you cannot face the charges again without violating your constitutional right against double jeopardy.
- Dropped charges – The prosecutor or police officer can decide to cancel the charges against you and drop one or more counts of one or more charges you face. These charges can be refiled unless you sign an agreement with the prosecution to prevent that.
- Dismissed charges – The judge may decide that there is not enough evidence to charge or convict you and order the charges thrown out. These charges can only be refiled under certain circumstances.
Having charges dropped or dismissed, or being acquitted of a charge, are the best outcomes for your case. The main differences between these three options are who triggers them: the jury acquits you of a crime, the judge dismisses charges, and the prosecutor or police officer drops charges. Another major difference is when charges can be refiled. Acquitted charges can never be refiled, but dismissals and dropped charges can be refiled if they are dropped or dismissed before the jury is sworn in. This ultimately makes acquittal the strongest victory – but dropped charges are likely the most desirable option because they happen earlier in the process.
Why Would a Prosecutor Drop Charges for Assault in NJ?
Prosecutors have multiple reasons they may drop assault charges against you. A prosecutor’s goal should be to ensure that justice is done, not simply to get a conviction. This means that prosecutors should not bring unnecessary charges, overcharge cases as more serious offenses, or bring charges they cannot prove. This means that prosecutors might drop assault charges in any of the following circumstances:
- There is not enough evidence to prove the case.
- They think someone else committed the crime.
- They believe the assault was self-defense.
- The charges are too serious to cover the alleged conduct.
- Proving the case would be a waste of court time and money.
There are additional reasons a case might be dropped, but these are some of the most common.
Prosecutors also routinely drop charges as part of agreements with the defendant. “Plea deals” or “plea agreements” are some of the most common ways to get charges dropped. In these agreements, defense attorneys and prosecutors negotiate to arrive at some reasonable agreement that helps the prosecution avoid the time and expense of trial and still sees the defendant face reasonable punishment.
Many formal agreements may involve reducing charges from aggravated assault to simple assault, saving the defendant from potential years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Many other agreements may see charges dropped entirely if the defendant agrees to perform community service, take anger management classes, or perform some other rehabilitation instead of facing fines and jail time.
Our Atlantic City Assault Defense Lawyers Offer Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was recently charged with assault in New Jersey, talk to an attorney about your case today. The Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those accused of simple and severe crimes and work to get charges dropped and dismissed. If needed, we will take cases to trial and fight to prove our clients’ innocence. For a free consultation on your charges, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.