Our NJ Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains the Stages After an Arrest
If you are facing criminal charges in Hackensack,Bergen County, Morristown or elsewhere in New Jersey, it is important to understand the stages involved the New Jersey criminal justice process. Not only will this help you avoid missing court dates and other deadlines, it will also help you make informed decisions about your defense every step of the way.
So what can you expect now that you have been arrested or received a summons to appear in court in Bergen County? Here is a brief overview of the stages involved in a New Jersey criminal case:
1. First Appearance
Once you have been arrested or received a summons, your first appearance in court will be scheduled fairly quickly. In fact, if you were arrested, your first appearance must be scheduled within 48 hours. During your first appearance, the judge will either set the conditions for your pretrial release, set bail or order pretrial detention. If you received a summons and you do not show up for your first appearance, the judge may order that you be taken into custody.
2. Pre-Indictment Proceedings
After your first appearance, the prosecutors assigned to your case will review the evidence and determine if they have sufficient evidence to move forward. At this stage, the prosecutor’s office can either: (i) decide to pursue the charges that have been filed against you, (ii) seek to have your charges downgraded, or (iii) recommend that your charges be dismissed. If you have hired a criminal defense attorney, your attorney can get involved in this process and seek to influence the prosecutors’ decision.
3. Plea Bargaining
The process of negotiating a favorable resolution prior to trial is known as plea bargaining. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may potentially be able to negotiate for any of the following outcomes:
- Downgraded charges
- Reduced term of probation or jail time (if you plead guilty)
- Maximum potential sentence
- Dismissal of some or all charges
4. Diversionary Programs
If you are eligible, your defense attorney can also seek to have you placed into a diversionary program (such as the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)). If you complete the program, your charges will be dismissed. However, if you do not complete the program, then your criminal case will be resumed.
5. Indictment and Arraignment
The next formal stage in the process is the indictment. This is when you will be forced to go before a grand jury, and the 23 grand jurors will decide if the prosecution has enough evidence to move forward. If the grand jury chooses to indict, then you will be scheduled to appear for an arraignment within 14 days. Plea bargain negotiations can continue during and after this process, and many cases are resolved after the defendant’s indictment but prior to trial.
7. A New Jersery Criminal Trial and Sentencing
If your trial date arrives and your case has not been resolved out of court, then your attorney will need to argue for a “not guilty” verdict at trial. The prosecution will present its case first, and then your attorney will use the available evidence (or lack thereof) to convince the jury that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof. If the jury returns a conviction, the judge will order a presentence investigation, and then the judge will impose a sentence pursuant to New Jersey law.
Schedule a Free Criminal Defense Consultation at The Gorman Law Firm
Are you facing a criminal charge in Bergen County? If so, it is important that you speak with an attorney immediately. To schedule a free initial consultation with criminal defense lawyer Scott Gorman, call or request an appointment online now. We have offices in Hackensack and Morristown.