FAQ

Can you promise results such as no prison time?
The only answer that can be given is no. No lawyer can ever promise any result, as every case is different and results vary. As your lawyers, we can ensure that we will explore all possibilities and discuss them with you. After a lawyer-client relationship is formed, we can consider getting the charges dismissed, plea bargaining, applying for a diversion program, or taking your matter to trial.

The police have contacted me, should I speak with them?
Under no circumstances should you ever speak with the police without first consulting a criminal lawyer. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. First, it is your constitutional right not to speak with the police and not incriminate yourself. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides, among other things, that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This right is so fundamental it is also expressed in the New Jersey Constitution under Article I, Section 8.
  2. Second, regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent, the police will be selective in what information is important to them. Simply, investigators may ignore portions of what a person says while cherry-picking what they want to use against you. They will focus on anything they think is incriminating while ignoring the rest.
  3. Third, while you may not believe you are a suspect of a crime, you may still accidently implicate yourself. Even the most experienced speaker is uncomfortable when being questioned by police. Investigators are trained to not take “no” for an answer and will continuously question you until your story begins to change. They use psychological techniques to breakdown a person’s will and often won’t rest until they get you to say what they want to hear. Remember that “everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Police and prosecutors are hoping you will make their job easier and incriminate yourself. Remembering to invoke your right to remain silent is the first step toward a winning defense.

What are Miranda Warnings and when do police have to issue them?
Anyone who has watched television knows that they have the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. However, police are only required to issue you your Miranda Warnings prior to Custodial Interrogation. Exactly when that right attaches is a fact determination determined by the Court. Even if you made an incriminating statement to the police, that statement may be excluded if it was not made knowingly and intelligently. That means the police must have first advised you of your rights and not question you in a coercive manner as to break down your will.

What is required of the police to make an arrest?
In order for the police to make an arrest, they require probable cause. Whether probable cause exists depends upon the facts and circumstances of the situation. Courts consider whether a reasonably intelligent and prudent person would believe that an accused person has committed a crime. If so, the police are permitted to arrest you in any place they have a legal right to be.

How are criminal charges brought against someone?
A person is charged with an offense when a formal complaint is issued by a law enforcement agency or a private citizen. The complaint will then be filed with the county prosecutor’s office and they will determine whether the complaint is sufficiently serious that it must go before a grand jury.

What is a grand jury indictment?
A grand jury indictment is a formal charge brought against a person for allegedly committing a crime. A “grand jury” is a randomly selected panel of 23 New Jersey citizens who consider evidence and decide whether the state of New Jersey can issue a criminal indictment. Grand Juries are considered the “voice of the community,” and serves as a filter.

If a prosecutor wants a grand jury to charge someone, the prosecutor will present evidence to the grand jury who makes the ultimate determination whether to issue an indictment. The grand jury reviews evidence offered by the prosecutor. Generally, the person being accused of the crime and any witnesses on their behalf will not be permitted to testify. The hearing is NOT open to the public. The jury will then decide to issue either a “no bill” or “true bill.” If the grand jury returns a “no bill,” then no indictment is given. If the grand jury returns a “true bill,” an indictment is issued. Each charge listed in the indictment is called a “count.”

What happens after a person is indicted?
When a grand jury votes and returns a “true bill,” the person who is indicted (the defendant) will be notified in writing by the criminal division manager’s office of the charges and when to appear in court for a prearraignment conference. This usually occurs within 21 days of the indictment.

What happens at a prearraignment conference?
It is important to first mention that if a defendant has hired legal counsel, who notifies the criminal division manager’s office of the representation, no prearraignment conference is required. Instead, the defendant’s lawyer will establish with the criminal division manager’s office that an appearance has been filed, they have received discovery from the prosecutor’s office, and have set up a date and time for an “arraignment” or “status conference.”

However, if a person is indicted and does not hire legal counsel immediately, they are required to attend a prearraignment conference. At this conference, the defendant will be informed of the charges, can apply for pre-trial intervention, and shall inform the criminal division manager’s office whether they can afford to hire a defense lawyer.

If a defendant is required to attend a prearraignment conference and does not appear, the criminal division manager shall inform the presiding judge. The judge will then issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest for failure to appear.

What is plea bargaining?
Plea bargaining is the negotiation that takes place between the State Prosecutor and the Defendant or his lawyer. It is an opportunity to agree to less charges or reduced charges in return for pleading guilty and avoiding the time and expense to take your case to trial.
Plea bargaining cannot begin until the defendant has been provided with the State’s evidence, called discovery. If no plea can be reached and the Court does not dismiss the case on legal grounds, then the matter will be set for trial.

What is a status conference or arraignment?
Within 50 days after a person is indicted, a status conference or arraignment will be held in open court. The judge will assure that the person charged understands the charges and has had time to review the case with their lawyer. Then, a plea must be given to the court. If the plea is “not guilty,” the judge will set a date for a pre-trial hearing to determine whether motions will be filed or if the case will proceed to trial.

What is a pre-trial hearing?
A pre-trial hearing is when the judge will listen to the attorneys argue legal motions. This is often when the judge will decide on the admissibility of evidence such as confessions, recordings, and witness identifications. At the final pre-trial conference, the judge will set a date for the trial.

What is the difference between a 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd degree and 4th degree crime?
Crimes are categorized based on severity from 1st degree which is the most serious to 4th degree which is the least serious. Generally, a 1st degree crime carries the potential penalty of 10 – 20 years in prison. A 2nd degree crime carries a potential penalty of 5-10 years in prison. 3rd degree crimes can potentially result in 3-5 years of prison time and 4th degree crimes carry a potential penalty of up to 18 months in jail.

What is a disorderly persons offense?
Disorderly persons offenses are complaints heard in municipal courts. These violations carry less severe punishments upon conviction, such as no more than 6 months in a county jail and fines limited to $1,000.

What is the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI)?
Pre-Trial Intervention is a diversion program which allows defendants the opportunity to avoid formal prosecution. The accused must qualify for PTI, although those charged with violent offenses will generally not qualify for PTI. In order to qualify, a person must have no prior convictions and have not previously participated in a diversion program like PTI or Conditional Discharge. The purpose of the program is to rehabilitate rather than punish first time offenders of non-violent offenses. Once entered into the program, defendants may receive fines, submit to random drug testing, participate in counseling, obtain a substance abuse evaluation, and perform community service. Once the program is complete without any issue, the charges will be dismissed and no conviction will appear on your permanent record. If terminated from the program, a formal criminal prosecution will be brought.

Do I have a constitutional right to a jury trial?
The answer is yes, if you are an adult charged with a crime that carries the risk of more than six months of prison. Minors have no right to a jury trial unless charged as an adult. Those charged with a disorderly persons offenses or DWI are not entitled to trial by jury, instead the case will be heard by a Judge who will determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

What is a post-conviction motion or appeal?
Any person who is convicted of a crime or crimes may appeal their case. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court is responsible for handling these appeals. The Appellate Division will review trial records and determine if decisions made by the judge were fair. It is crucial to hire a defense lawyer who will fight for you during your appeal process and who will file timely motions. An accused individual may also seek to have their sentence modified. Unfortunately, just because you think the jury or judge got it wrong, is not a sufficient basis to file an appeal.

What is an expungement?
An expungement is the sealing of a person’s criminal record. Under certain circumstances a person’s record can be sealed such that it gives the person the legal right to say the conviction never happened. There are waiting periods which must be met which vary depending upon the severity of the conviction and some convictions can never be expunged. If you have a conviction and want to work in the public sector, join the armed forces, or think an employer may run a background check, you may benefit from a free consultation to determine whether you are eligible for an expungement.

How long will an expungement take?
The short answer is it varies depending upon how busy the county you live in is and how complicated the expungement is. On average, most expungements are completed between 3-6 months.

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