27 Nov 23

What to Do If You Are Arrested for a Crime in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:57 pm

Oh No! I’ve Been Arrested in New Jersey…Now What?

So you messed up and found those flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror. We all make mistakes, but getting arrested can turn your whole world upside down real fast. Take a deep breath – this article will walk you through what to expect if you’re arrested for a crime in New Jersey and what your options are.

The Arrest Process

If the cops pull you over or show up at your door, chances are they’ll slap a pair of cold handcuffs on your wrists pretty quick. They’ll probably search your car and person too, looking for any evidence related to whatever crime they think you done. Not exactly how ya wanted to spend your Friday night, huh?

Once you’re in cuffs, the police will haul you down to the station for booking. This just means they’ll take your fingerprints, mugshot, and basic information. You’ll have to turn over everything in your pockets too. So kiss that cash and phone goodbye for now.

After booking, you’ll be put in a holding cell until your bail hearing. This is where they decide if you can be released until your trial or if you gotta sit in jail. More on bail later.

Getting Out on Bail

In New Jersey, you have the right to a bail hearing within 48 hours of your arrest. That means how long you’ll be stuck in lockup depends on when you get picked up. Arrested on a Friday? Good chance you’ll be there all weekend.

At the bail hearing, a judge reviews the charges against you and sets bail – aka the amount of money you gotta pay to get out. Bail can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the crime. If you can’t afford it, you’ll have to stay in jail until your trial. Harsh, but them’s the breaks.

If this is your first offense, the judge might let you out without posting bail. This is called released on your own recognizance or ROR. But don’t count on it if the charges are serious.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer

After that bail hearing, your next call (well, after mom and dad maybe) should be to a criminal defense attorney. Getting a lawyer on your side ASAP is critical when facing criminal charges. The legal system moves fast, and you need someone who knows the ropes.

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When looking for a lawyer, don’t just Google the first name you see. Ask friends and family for recommendations – word-of-mouth is best. Or search the New Jersey State Bar Association directory for attorneys with experience handling your type of charges.

Sit down with a few lawyers before deciding. Find someone you feel comfortable with. Be upfront about your case and financial situation too. Most criminal attorneys offer free consultations and flexible payment plans. Don’t penny pinch your freedom!

The Charges Against You

Once you got counsel lined up, they’ll want to review the criminal complaint. This outlines the exact charges against you and the facts the police say prove your guilt.

Common charges for first-time offenders include petty theft, minor drug possession, simple assault, public intoxication or disorderly conduct. The type and number of charges drastically impacts the penalties you face if convicted.

Your attorney will analyze the complaint to start building strategic defenses to beat the charges. For example, if you’re accused of theft, they might argue you never actually left the store with the items. Or for a drug charge, they may claim illegal search and seizure of the substances.

Don’t just plead guilty right away without exploring defenses! An experienced lawyer knows how to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.

Possible Penalties if Convicted

Let’s be real – any criminal conviction stays on your record forever. And penalties go far beyond fines and jail time too. Your license could be suspended, job prospects tanked, student financial aid denied…not to mention the social stigma.

But how screwed you are depends on whether the charges are indictable or non-indictable offenses. Think felonies vs misdemeanors.

Indictable crimes like robbery, aggravated assault or distribution of drugs over 5 pounds carry penalties of 10+ years in prison. Non-indictables like DUI, simple assault or petty theft max out around 6 months jail time.

Also, New Jersey has mandatory minimum sentences for some drug charges. Like 3 years for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Doesn’t matter if it’s your first offense – no getting out early on good behavior. Harsh but true.

Plea Bargaining

Over 90% of criminal cases end in a guilty plea, not trial. The incentives to take a plea deal are high when facing serious indictable charges.

Plea bargains involve negotiating with the prosecutor to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for dropping the bigger ones. So someone charged with armed robbery might plead down to aggravated assault to avoid 10+ years behind bars.

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Your lawyer does the negotiating based on weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, your criminal history, and the specific judge and jurisdiction. The goal is reducing charges enough so penalties aren’t completely life-altering.

Still seems crazy to voluntarily become a convicted criminal right? But when the alternative is potentially decades in prison, minimizing damages starts to sound pretty good.

Preparing for Trial

If you and your attorney decide to reject plea deals and take your case to trial, there’s lots to get done. Building a solid defense requires months of intense preparation.

Your lawyer will file motions to suppress any evidence seized illegally or statements you made before you lawyered up. This keeps them out of court.

They’ll also dig deep into your background and the case details to construct arguments – maybe the “weapon” was just a toy or the cop who arrested you is known to be corrupt. Anything that plants those seeds of reasonable doubt.

And they’ll spend hours prepping your testimony too. Good lawyers will grill you with tough questions to simulate cross examination. Fumbling on the stand won’t win over the jury.

Getting ready for trial is draining both emotionally and financially. But sometimes it’s your best shot at acquittal.

Takeaways If You’re Arrested in New Jersey

Being arrested throws your stability into chaos real quick. But remembering these key steps can help navigate the storm:

  • Cooperate respectfully during the arrest process
  • Secure a criminal defense lawyer ASAP
  • Don’t automatically plead guilty – explore options
  • Prepare thoroughly if going to trial

Staying calm under pressure and leaning on experienced advocates increases the chances charges get dismissed or penalties reduced.

And hey – we all make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up too hard. What matters most now is learning from this experience and fighting to get your life back on track. You got this!