The Criminal Process in New Jersey

Have you been arrested for or charged with a crime in New Jersey? Navigating the criminal justice system can be intimidating and confusing, and you shouldn’t go through it alone. From investigation to trial, every stage of the process requires careful attention and skillful legal representation.

At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we are committed to providing personalized attention to our clients when they need it the most. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have successfully represented clients facing criminal charges in New Jersey. We know how the system works and can help you navigate it with confidence. Contact us today for a free consultation about your defense.


New Jersey police or the prosecutor’s office will likely investigate the crime an arrest or charge was based on. The investigation can include collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and conducting searches. However, it is important to note that the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The state also has specific rules regarding the admissibility of evidence obtained during investigations. A defendant has the right to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution, and the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Criminal Complaint

A criminal complaint is a legal document that initiates criminal proceedings in New Jersey. A law enforcement officer files it with the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, which will investigate the alleged crime. The complaint identifies the accused and the criminal offense they are alleged to have committed.

If the NJ Division of Criminal Justice finds sufficient evidence to support the complaint, they may issue a warrant for the accused’s arrest. Once arrested, the accused will be brought before a judge who will formally charge them with the crime.


An arrest is a legal process that involves taking someone into custody for allegedly committing a crime in New Jersey. Law enforcement officers who have probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime carry out the arrest. They will then take the accused to a police station, where they will be processed and booked.

This process includes taking fingerprints, photographs, and personal information. The accused will remain in custody until they can post bail or appear before a judge for a bail hearing. It’s important to remember that being arrested does not mean that someone is guilty, and they have the right to a fair trial.

Initial Appearance

An initial appearance is a crucial step in the criminal process in New Jersey. It is the first time an accused individual appears before a judge, who will inform them of the charges they are facing and their legal rights.

Some of these rights include the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. When the accused appears before the court for the first time, the judge will also consider whether to release them on bail or keep them in custody until the trial.

Review of Charges and Plea Bargaining

After the initial appearance, the NJ Division of Criminal Justice will review the charges against the accused and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support them. A plea bargain can sometimes be offered as a deal the accused can accept in exchange for a reduced sentence. Plea bargaining can benefit both the prosecution and the defense, as it can save time and resources and avoid a trial.

Indictment by Grand Jury

An indictment by a grand jury is a formal accusation of a crime in New Jersey. A grand jury is a group of citizens who review the evidence presented by the NJ Division of Criminal Justice and determine whether there is enough evidence to support the charges.

When there is enough evidence, a grand jury will issue an indictment that lists the charges that will be brought against the accused. An indictment is an important step in the criminal process because it marks the transition from investigation to trial.

Pre-Arraignment Conference

During a New Jersey criminal case, a pre-arraignment conference takes place between the prosecution and the defense before the arraignment. One purpose of the conference is to discuss the charges, evidence, and any possible plea bargain.

The prosecution and defense may negotiate a plea deal during the conference. This negotiation may involve a discussion of reducing the charges, recommending a lenient sentence, or dismissing the case altogether. The pre-arraignment conference is an important opportunity for the defense to assess the strength of the prosecution’s case and to try to negotiate a favorable outcome.

At the arraignment, the defendant is given a formal copy of the charges against them.


A trial is a legal process that involves a judge or jury deciding the guilt or innocence of a defendant in a criminal case in New Jersey. The trial begins with jury selection and continues with the presentation of evidence and arguments from both the prosecution and defense.

The prosecution’s goal is to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while the defense aims to show that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof. After considering the evidence and arguments, the judge or jury will render a verdict of guilty or not guilty.


Sentencing is the final stage of a criminal trial, where the judge decides the punishment for the defendant if they are found guilty. In New Jersey, the judge will consider various factors, such as the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

The sentencing options in New Jersey include fines, probation, community service, and imprisonment. In some cases, the defendant may also be required to undergo counseling or treatment programs. It is important to note that the sentencing process can be complex, and having an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that the defendant receives a fair and just sentence.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey

When you face criminal charges, the stakes are high, and the consequences can be severe. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and work to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our team of skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers has the experience and dedication to guide you through the criminal process. Contact us today for a free consultation about your defense.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.