What Can You Expect When You are Facing Charges in New Jersey
The criminal justice system in New Jersey can be complicated and
confusing. Most people in court have never been faced with such an
experience. After all, who ever imagines themselves to be accused of
a crime? But if this has happened to you, I hope this page will help
you understand the criminal court procedures a little better, and reduce
a little of your anxiety.
Your defense attorney is the best source of help with any questions
about your case.
If you haven't hired a lawyer yet, I encourage you to schedule a
free consultation with me for answers to questions about a charge
you are facing. I can help you review your charges and plan a defense
strategy to get you the best outcome possible for anyone accused of a
New Jersey criminal offense.
This is the typical process for an indictable offense, or
crime (also known as a felony level offense) as designated under New
Jersey criminal laws. The court process is less complicated for a
disorderly persons, or misdemeanor offense.
How a Criminal Charge is Filed
Anytime a police officer has contact with a person, that police
officer writes a report. If a police officer suspects that a crime or
offense has been committed they pass their report to the prosecutor’s
office. If they believe that crime has been committed and the have
probable cause that they are in contact with the person who committed
the crime, the officer can arrest that person.
Indictable offenses are typically filed in New Jersey Superior Court.
While waiting for an indictment, that defendant will appear
before a judge who tells them why he or she is being held in custody.
The judge will also notify the defendant of their right to an attorney
and the amount of their bail. Any person in custody is able to be given
an attorney appointed by the state if he or she cannot afford a private
Bail is the amount you need to pay to get out of
jail. A defendant has a right to have the option to bail within twelve
hours of being arrested. If the prosecutor is worried about a defendant
bailing out and fleeing or being a threat to the community, he or she
will file a motion to either raise the bail or to ask the judge to hold
a defendant without bail. Some people contract a bail bond to pay their
bail if they cannot come up with enough money on their own.
Sometimes a defendant will be ROR’d which means Released on
his or her own Recognizance. This means that the person is
released without paying anything by signing an affidavit saying they
promise to appear in court. Usually this will happen if it is the first
criminal charge a person has received and/or if the person has stable
housing and employment and is not considered a risk to not return to
Information From the Prosecutor
A prosecutor reviews the reports from the police officers and
determines if there was a crime or offense committed and, if so, what
charge corresponds to each crime or offense based on the police reports.
The prosecutor might also interview victims and/or witnesses to get more
information. If the prosecutor decides there has been a crime committed
he or she compiles all of the charges together in a document called
information that is sent to a grand jury. If the prosecutor determines
an offense has been committed, they send the information to the
A grand jury is a group of individuals who are randomly selected from
the community through jury duty. They convene and listen to the police
officers, witnesses, and victims to determine if a crime has been
committed and whether or not it is likely that the person who is being
accused, the defendant, is somehow related to what happened.
If the grand jury decides that a crime did occur and the defendant is
likely involved in what happened, they issue an indictment. Before they
issue an indictment they review the charges the prosecutor has named and
decide which charges go on the indictment. An indictment is a document
that shows the state of New Jersey is officially bringing charges
against you. Sometimes a defendant’s bail will increase after an
All defendants have the right to fight the charges against them. They
do this through a Trial. A trial is a hearing that can either be in
front of a twelve person jury or in front of a judge. The trial begins
with the prosecutor putting on any evidence he or she has. They will
often do this by having police officers, witnesses, and/or the victim(s)
testify in court. You have the right to confront your accuser so if a
victim doesn’t show up for trial, the state has to dismiss your case.
After the prosecution has put on their evidence, the defense has the
opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence on their behalf. At
the end of the trial either the judge or the 12 person jury decides
whether or not the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the
defendant is guilty of the charges. They can decide that all, some, or
none of the charges have been proven. If they decide that none of the
charges have been proven, the defendant is acquitted of the charges and
is therefore free to go.
The defendant has the right to either be sentenced immediately
following his or her trial or to wait and have a different hearing just
for sentencing. Usually defendants who are out of custody during the
trial and have been convicted will opt to have a separate sentencing
hearing so they will not be taken into custody at that moment.
Defendants who are convicted and who are in custody at the time usually
elect to have their sentencing immediately because either way they are
going back to jail after the trial.
Most criminal cases end in some form of guilty plea before they have
a chance to go to trial. After reviewing the evidence, many times the
defendant and his or her attorney will agree that it is likely they
would be found guilty of the charges if they decided to take the case to
trial. When this happens, the defendant can enter into a guilty plea
which is a negotiated contract with the prosecutor, usually in exchange
for less time than a defendant would receive if he or she lost at a
I am in different NJ courts every day,
defending my clients rights and freedom on many different criminal
and traffic charges. If you've been arrested and are facing criminal
charges in New Jersey, call for a free consultation now.(888) 628-8394
(888) 628-8394 or locally at (732) 625-9660