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Looking for a New Jersey Criminal lawyer and criminal
Listed below are some
key points that you will encounter during a criminal investigation:
Bail is required to be set within twelve hours of the issuance of a
complaint. All defendants have a right to bail under our state
constitution. If bail is posted, defendants are released until the
charges listed in the complaint are resolved. Defendants can be required
to post funds or property to assure that they will appear in court in
the future. They may be required to deposit funds or property with the
criminal division manager in exchange for a promise to appear. If
defendants have significant ties to the community, or no criminal
history, they may be considered for a Release on Own Recognizance or
R.O.R., which is an affidavit certifying that they are aware of the
charges levied against them, and will appear in court to face them.
Defendants may also be required to give a personal bond, which is a
promise to appear or face a judgment , whereby a specified amount of
money is forfeited. Some defendants pay a bail bondsman to post funds on
their behalf. These defendants may be ordered to post a higher bail, or
have no bail set. They will remain in jail until the charges are
disposed. If they are released and appear in court as required, bail
money may be refunded in full upon case resolution or disposition. Once
defendants are released, bail is discharged to the surety.
Right To Counsel
At their first appearance defendants are advised of their right to
counsel. This means that they are entitled to have an attorney represent
them and answer the charges. If they indicate that they are unable to
afford an attorney, Criminal Division staff are assigned to conduct
indigence investigations. These investigations consider defendants'
assets and liabilities, and recommend that cases be assigned to a public
defender if a defendant is unable to afford a private attorney. Private
attorneys are usually either self-employed or work for private law firms
who charge an hourly rate for services.
In making indigence determinations, Criminal Division staff consider
defendants' ability to post bail, the amount of bail posted, the
willingness of friends and family members to pay for an attorney, and
any factor related to a defendant's claim of impoverishment. They review
tax returns, credit and wage records and any other relevant information
regarding the ability of defendants to hire their own attorneys. If a
defendant is declared indigent, a public defender or "pool attorney"
will handle the case until it is resolved, by a "plea", "downgrade,"
"dismissal, or Pretrial Intervention", or "trial" through a sentencing
process. Some downgraded cases are ordered, or "remanded" back to the
local municipal court for disposition. A local public defender may be
assigned to the case by the magistrate.
If an investigation reveals assets or it is determined that a
defendant has some means to pay for an attorney, the criminal case
supervisor will recommend that a defendant's application for indigent
defense services be denied. A Criminal Division judge may rule on the
recommendation, ordering a defendant to hire an attorney, allow "pro-se"
or "self" representation, or order a defendant to consult attorneys who
may take their case at a reduced rate. Over 85% of all criminal cases
have a public defender assigned.
* Contact a New Jersey
criminal lawyer to find out all your legal
options and rights *
Following the filing of a complaint and the first court appearance,
the prosecutor's office in each county determines whether to pursue a
criminal complaint. Prosecutors determine if cases have merit and
sufficient evidence to pursue a conviction. In most counties, the
prosecutor's Case Screening Unit reviews police reports and interviews
victims and witnesses to determine if the original charges will be
prosecuted. If there is insufficient evidence, the charges are
downgraded to disorderly persons offenses and "remanded" or sent to the
municipal courts for a hearing or dismissed. In some counties,
prosecutors pre-screen potential Superior Court filings before a
complaint is signed.
In many cases, the prosecutor and a defendant's lawyer will negotiate
a plea bargain. In a plea agreement, the prosecutor may offer the
accused an arrangement where s/he will recommend a reduced term of
incarceration or probation in exchange for a guilty plea. In some
instances, the charges are reduced or dismissed as part of the plea
bargain. Maximum sentence terms may also be part of negotiated
agreements. Criminal Division individual judge teams, managed by team
leaders, coordinate court dates with the prosecutor and the defense
attorney regarding the plea agreement and establishes a court date for
the plea to be entered.
Defendants entering a plea must sign a statement certifying that they
understand the plea and are entering into the agreement voluntarily and
without pressure from the prosecution or their own attorney. They also
acknowledge that the Criminal Division judges are not bound by the
agreement when deciding and rendering sentences. If a judge perceives
that the plea bargain is too lenient, the judge can reject the plea and
order the prosecution and defense parties to renegotiate, or order the
matter set down for trial. 30% of all complaints are settled through
pretrial programs and negotioations . After a criminal case is indicted,
over 70% are resolved without proceeding to a full trial.
The Criminal Practice Division of the Administrative Office of the
Courts tracks all criminal cases in all counties from the time a
complaint is issued to its disposition. If some courts have persistent
backlogs, an analysis of the system can be made through the division's
statewide criminal case computer network known as Promis Gavel. Methods
for reducing backlogs can be formulated by the Conference of Presiding
Judges and Criminal Division managers, or local speedy trial
coordinating committees led by criminal presiding judges.
Defendants pleading guilty as a result of the plea agreement must
acknowledge their plea in open court. Defendants who plead guilty after
plea negotiations do not surrender their right to appeal their
convictions to the Appellate Division of Superior Court.
* Contact a New Jersey
criminal lawyer to find out all your legal
options and rights *
Pre Trial Intervention Program, or PTI
Criminal Division Case Supervisors conduct investigations on adult
defendants who apply for Pretrial Intervention. This is a diversionary
program which permits certain defendants to avoid formal prosecution and
conviction by entering into a term of court supervised community living,
often with counseling or other support. Criminal Division Managers
direct this program. Case supervisors prepare reports to aid the
Criminal Division Manager and the prosecutor in deciding whether to
recommend approval and for criminal judges determining if defendants
will be admitted. Defendants opting for this program apply directly to
Criminal Division Management. Case supervisors conduct investigations
into the history of all applicants, to ensure their eligibility.
Admission to the program requires the consent of the prosecutor, the
Criminal Division Manager and the criminal judge.
Defendants charged with violent offenses generally are not admitted.
Probationers and parolees are also generally excluded, since they have
prior convictions. Persons accused of racketeering or organized crime
are generally not admitted, as well as public officials who are accused
of abusing their positions for personal gain against the public trust.
Prosecutors must be consulted before an applicant charged with a first
or second degree crime can even be considered for PTI.
The objective of PTI is to provide an incentive for first time
non-violent offenders to rehabilitate. Conditions attached to judicial
orders for pretrial intervention may require defendants to obtain a
substance abuse evaluation from TASC, participate in substance abuse or
mental health counseling or community service, or submit to urine
testing, pay restitution and fines, or give up a firearm or driver's
license. Participants have criminal charges formally suspended for up to
three years. Once a participant completes the program, charges are
dismissed. However, if defendants fail to complete special conditions
attached to their term of PTI supervision, the participant can be
terminated from the program, triggering a resumption of the formal
criminal process. These defendants may face indictment and trial, and if
convicted, face the penalties prescribed by the criminal code. The
Administrative Office of the Courts maintains a computer registry of all
PTI applicants, to ensure a person is not admitted into PTI more than
The Grand Jury
If a criminal case has not been, downgraded, diverted or dismissed,
the prosecutor will present the case to a grand jury for an indictment.
The grand jury is composed of a group of citizens who have been selected
from voter registration, drivers license and tax lists. The grand jury
considers evidence presented by the county prosecutor and determines if
there is sufficient evidence to formally charge defendants and require
them to respond to the charge(s). An indictment is not a finding of
guilt. Generally, neither the accused nor their attorneys are present.
Witnesses normally testify regarding the crime. After considering
evidence, if a majority of the 23 jurors vote to indict defendants, they
must face further criminal proceedings. The return of an indictment is
called a true bill. If a majority finds the evidence to be insufficient
to indict, the grand jury enters a no bill and the charge(s) are
dismissed. The jury may, however, decide to charge defendants with a
less serious offense, to be downgraded or remanded to the municipal
court. The accused must appear in municipal court to face a disorderly
persons or petty disorderly persons charge.
New Jersey criminal lawyer
for further legal advice.