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FAQ- Criminal Defense

INDICTABLE CRIMES/FELONIES

QUESTION: This is my first time being arrested.  Is it possible to avoid a conviction on my record?

Yes.  New Jersey has a program known as the Pre-Trial Intervention program (PTI) which sometimes allows first time offenders to avoid a criminal conviction on their record.  You must submit your application to the PTI program, be interviewed, and accepted to gain entry into the program.


QUESTION: I want to get my case resolved as quickly as possible.  Will I be better off by just showing up to court without an attorney and pleading guilty?

No.  Having an attorney is necessary to make sure your rights are protected and you receive the best possible outcome in your case.  In fact, most Judges will usually order a defendant to retain an attorney if they show up to Court without one.

QUESTION: Can a lawyer help get my charges dismissed?

Possibly.  When charged with a felony offense, a lawyer will review your case and identify any issues.  After identifying issues with your case, your lawyer will negotiate a resolution of your case with the Prosecutor.  This can lead to some or all of your charges being dismissed.


QUESTION: What is the process once I am arrested?

Immediately after being arrested, a defendant will be taken to police headquarters and be processed for the charges they were arrested on.  What happens next will depend on what you are being charged with.

If the charges are 3rd degree offenses, 4th degree offenses, or disorderly persons offenses, you may be released from police headquarters after you are processed and receive a summons that includes your charges and a date to appear in Court.

If you are facing serious charges, such as 1st and 2nd degree offenses, the Prosecutor's Office may file a motion to have you detained until your case is resolved.  This means that you will be transported to the County Jail until your hearing is held.  Detention hearings usually occur 2-4 days after someone is arrested.

   
QUESTION: The things the police wrote in their report aren't true.  Is there anything I can do to challenge their allegations?

Yes.  Every person who is arrested has the constitutional right to challenge the evidence the State has in their possession.  This includes calling the officers to testify, cross examining the State's witnesses, and demanding any video evidence be produced.


QUESTION: What will happen if I don't show up for my court date?

If you fail to show up for your scheduled court date, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest by the Judge.  The warrant will be in the database throughout the State and will show up if you are pulled over by the police.  If a police officer knows you have a bench warrant, you will be arrested and held in jail until you are brought before a Judge.

If you are unable to attend your court hearing, you must reach out to your attorney so they can assist you and potentially avoid a bench warrant being issued.

MUNICIPAL COURT

QUESTION: If my charges are only disorderly persons offenses, do I still need a lawyer?

Yes.  Even though your charges are disorderly persons offenses, it is still highly recommended you hire a lawyer.  Disorderly persons offenses still come with penalties of jail time and probation.  Having a lawyer will ensure your rights are protected and can help you work out a plea agreement with the least possible penalties.

QUESTION: Can a lawyer get my charges dismissed?

Possibly.  When charged with disorderly persons offenses and traffic violations, a lawyer can identify any issues with your case and negotiate with the Prosecutor.  This can lead to some or all of your charges being dismissed.

QUESTION: Even though my case is in Municipal Court, can I still take my case to trial?

Yes.  Taking your case to trial is always an option, regardless of your charges or what court you are in.  In Municipal Court, a trial will be held before the Judge.  There are no juries in Municipal Court.  If you take your case to trial, the Judge will issue the verdict in your case.

QUESTION:  Since my case is in Municipal Court, can the Judge still issue a bench warrant for my arrest?

Yes.  Regardless of what court is hearing your case, the Judge always has the power to issue a bench warrant for your arrest if you do not show up to your court date.  It is crucial to always be present for your court date.  If you are unable to attend court for any reason, contact the court or your attorney to reschedule your date so a warrant won't be issued.

JUVENILE CRIMES

QUESTION: Are incarcerated juvenile's housed in the same jail as adults?

No.  Juveniles are housed in a separate facility from incarcerated adult defendants.

QUESTION: Are punishments for juveniles the same as adults?

No.  The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the juvenile, as opposed to the adult criminal justice system which is to punish and deter.  punishments are geared towards ensuring juveniles understand what they did was a criminal act and help them avoid committing crimes when they become legal adults.

QUESTION: Can juveniles face adult charges?

Yes.  When a juvenile is faced with serious charges, such as murder, sexual assault, or robbery, the Prosecution has the ability to "waive" the juvenile to adult court.  If this happens, a juvenile is subject to the same penalties as if he was being charged as an adult.

DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED

QUESTION: What is the difference between a "Per Se" DWI and an "Observation" DWI?

A Per Se DWI means that your BAC reading is .08% or above.  You can be charged with a Per Se DWI regardless of your performance on field sobriety tests.

An Observation DWI means that you are being charged based on the police officer's observations.  This is usually after the police conduct a field sobriety tests.  You can be charged with an Observation DWI regardless of your BAC reading being below .08%.

QUESTION: What are my options if I want to fight my DWI charge?

When facing a DWI charge, there are many issues and facts that can be contested in court.  Below are some examples:

  • Did the police have a legal reason to initially stop your car?
  • Did the police follow the correct procedures when administering a breathalyzer?
  • Did the police follow the correct procedures when administering field sobriety tests?

If the police did not follow all laws and correct procedures, your case may be dismissed.

QUESTION: This is my first DWI charge.  If I plead guilty, will my license be suspended?

It depends.  New Jersey recently amended their DWI laws.  The new law allows you to avoid a license suspension for your first DWI if your BAC is between .08%-.15%.  If your BAC is above .15%, you will still face a mandatory license suspension.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

QUESTION: Do crimes of Domestic Violence have extra penalties?

Yes.  If you are convicted of a crime of Domestic Violence, you are subject to extra penalties such as No Victim Contact, losing the right to possess firearms, and subject to a Final Restraining Order.

QUESTION: What is a Restraining Order?

A Restraining Order is issued by a Judge and Orders you to stay away from a specific person or address.  Once someone makes a claim of Domestic Violence to the police or the courthouse, a Temporary Restraining Order will be issued.  After a Temporary Restraining Order is issued, the case must be heard before a Judge within 10 days to determine if a Final Restraining Order will be issued or if the case will be dismissed.

QUESTION: Are Final Restraining Order Trials held in Criminal Court?

No.  Final Restraining Order trials are held in the Family Part of the Superior Court in the County where the charges were filed.

QUESTION- I am facing a Final Restraining Order.  Can I fight the charge?

Yes.  If facing a Final Restraining Order, you can present evidence on your behalf and cross-examine the Plaintiff's allegations. 

EXPUNGEMENTS

QUESTION: How long do I have to wait to file an application to expunge my criminal record?

It depends on your prior convictions.  Some disorderly persons convictions can be expunged in as soon as 3 years.  Felony convictions can range from 4-6 years before an expungement application can be submitted to the court.

QUESTION: Can I file an expungement application on my own?

Yes, but it is not recommended.  Expungement applications require a tremendous amount of information and attention to filing details.  If anything is filed incorrectly, the process is restarted.

VIOLATIONS OF PROBATION

QUESTION: If I get violated by my probation officer, does that mean I will go to jail?

No.  Your probation officer only files the violation with the court.  The result of your alleged violation is handled by your attorney and the Prosecutor.  Your attorney can negotiate with the Prosecutor to keep you out of jail, continue your probation term, or terminate your probation completely.

QUESTION: What happens if I don't show up for my Violation of Probation hearing?

If you fail to appear for your Violation of Probation, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.  Violations of Probation are treated the same as any other court date and give the Judge the power to issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear.

Have more questions? Contact The Law Offices of Alex Cirocco or call me immediately at 973-327-9995 for your free consultation.

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