Our Bergen County Criminal Defense Lawyer Answers Your FAQs

If you have been charged with a crime in New Jersey, you need to make informed decisions about your defense. You also need to avoid costly mistakes that could make it more difficult to achieve a favorable result. Here, Bergen County criminal defense lawyer Scott Gorman answers some frequently asked questions about successfully defending against criminal charges in New Jersey:

Q: What should I do when the police want to question me?

You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise this right to make sure you don’t say something that could jeopardize your defense. If the police try to question you, politely tell them that you are exercising your right to remain silent and state that you would like to speak with your attorney. Also, try to remember when, or if, the police read your Miranda rights (“You have the right to remain silent . . .”). If you were questioned in custody without having been read your rights, this may prevent the prosecution from using your statements against you.

Q: What happens next after I get arrested or receive a summons?

Once you are arrested or served with a summons to appear in municipal court, the initial stages of the criminal justice process move fairly quickly. It is important that you speak with a defense attorney as soon as possible, as your attorney may have to represent you in court in as little as 48 hours. The stages of a criminal case following an arrest or the issuance of a summons in New Jersey are:

  • First Appearance
  • Pre-Indictment Proceedings
  • Plea Bargaining
  • Diversionary Programs
  • Indictment
  • Arraignment
  • Trial
  • Presentencing Investigation and Sentencing

Q: What happens if I miss my first appearance?

During your first appearance, the judge will decide whether to release you on conditions or bail or order pretrial detention. If you do not show up for your first appearance, then the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest. Not only will this result in you being sent to jail while you await trial, but it also isn’t going to win you any favors for the remainder of your case.

Q: What should I do if there is a warrant out for my arrest?

If there is a warrant out for your arrest, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. In most cases, it will be in your best interests to turn yourself in to the police rather than waiting to be arrested (which will happen eventually), and your attorney will be able to negotiate the terms of your surrender in advance. If you do not surrender, you run the risk of being arrested anywhere at any time, including at work or while you are spending time with your children.

Q: What are my rights if the police come to my home?

If the police come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have a search warrant. If the police say they have a warrant, you are entitled to see it, and you are also entitled to contact a lawyer immediately. If they don’t have a warrant, should you let them in? While it may seem like a good idea to show that you don’t have anything to hide, the reality is that voluntarily letting the police conduct a search without your Bergen County criminal defense lawyer present is almost never a good idea.

Q: How do I know what penalties I am facing?

The penalties that are on the table in a New Jersey criminal case depend on the severity of the crime (or crimes) involved. In New Jersey, offenses are classified as either: (i) disorderly persons offenses, or (ii) indictable offenses. Disorderly persons offenses carry the potential for up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine (petty disorderly offenses carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine). Indictable offenses can be classified as first-, second-, third- or fourth-degree crimes, and they can carry maximum sentences of anywhere from 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine to life behind bars and fines of up to $200,000.

Q: Is it okay to talk to my family members about my case?

Right now, the only person with whom you should be discussing your case is your Bergen County criminal defense lawyer. The time will come when you can explain everything to your family, but if you talk to your family members now, the prosecutor’s office may subpoena them to testify against you in court. The same goes for your friends and social media: Until your case is over, you should not be saying, texting or posting anything that could potentially be used against you.

Q: Do I need a Bergen County criminal defense lawyer if I am innocent?

Yes, unfortunately you do. Even if you are absolutely certain that you have not committed a crime, you must still defend yourself effectively in order to avoid a guilty verdict at trial. Studies have shown that wrongful convictions are alarmingly common, and, if there is evidence that puts you at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed, you could be at risk for a conviction.

Q: Is it worth it to hire an attorney if I am guilty?

Yes, absolutely. Even if we assume that you committed a crime under New Jersey law (which you should not do), you could still have several different defenses available. Depending on the circumstances at hand, these defenses could result in a dismissal, or, at the very least, they could limit the fines and jail time that are on the table. The consequences of a criminal conviction can go well beyond your sentence, and you have every reason to fight your charges to the fullest extent possible.

Speak with Bergen County Criminal Defense Lawyer Scott Gorman

If you are facing a criminal charge in Bergen County, you need to obtain legal advice that is custom-tailored to the circumstances of your case. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with Bergen County criminal defense attorney Scott Gorman, call 201-489-9199 or contact us online now. Our office is conveniently located in Hackensack.