An Overview of New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Systems

Need Lawyer for a Criminal Case in Somerset County

Being investigated, let alone being charged with a criminal offense can be downright terrifying. Not understanding all your options can only add to an already stressful situation. Regardless of the situation that you find yourself in, we strongly urge that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options. As one would imagine, there is a lot on the line and one mistake early on can totally change the trajectory of your case. If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Somerset or Hunterdon County and would like to speak to one of the criminal defense attorneys on staff at Keith Oliver Criminal Law, then please contact our office at 908.533.1064. We defend all types of charges, including indictable (felony), disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanor) and traffic offenses. As always, our initial consultations are free of costs. So if you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Being Investigated Criminally in Somerset County?

If you or a loved one is being investigated by law enforcement it is absolutely crucial that you understand your rights. There are a lot of important decisions that will come about quickly during this process that could certainly affect your future. Some of the most important things include:

  • Should you speak to law enforcement?
  • Are you a suspect?
  • Are you a witness?
  • What do they want to talk to you about?
  • Have you have already been charged?
    • Indictable Offense? Disorderly Persons Offense?
      •  Complaint-Warrant?
      • Complaint-Summons?

Formally Charged with a Crime in NJ – Complaint-Warrant v. Complaint Summons

Complaint-Warrant and Complaint-Summons are two of the most common charging documents in New Jersey. The difference between the two will basically dictate the procedures required in order to process an individual on the underlying complaint. Anyone charged on a Compliant-Summons will ultimately be released on what is known as an ROR status from the local police station. Conversely anyone arrested on a Complaint-Warrant will not be released from the local police station and may, depending on the specifics surrounding the charges, be denied bail. Here is a more in depth breakdown of both procedures.

What Happens if Charged with a Disorderly Persons Offense in Somerset County?

Anyone charged under a complaint-summons will be taken down to the local police station, processed on the criminal charge(s) and released directly from the police station on a summons to appear at a future court date to answer for the charges. Typically lower level offenses are issued on a Complaint-Summons. More often than not, they are disorderly persons offenses. Some of the most common charges we see being issued on a complaint-summons include possession of controlled dangerous substance, shoplifting, theft of moveable property, harassment, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. Depending on the charges, the individual will then have to appear in the Superior Court or the local Municipal Court to defend the allegations.

What Happens if You are being held in Somerset County Jail?

Unlike complaint-summons, anyone charged on a complaint-warrant will not be released from the local police department following their processing unfortunately. Once the processing is complete, the individual will be taken to the County Jail so that pretrial services can conduct their analysis. Once pretrial services conducts their interview, a Public Safety Assessment will be completed and the individual will be scheduled for their Central Judicial Processing (CJP) Hearing. This hearing will take place within 48 hours of the individual’s arrest. It will be at this hearing that the individual will be advised if they are going to be released on certain conditions or whether they will be forced to have a Detention Hearing.

How do Bail Hearings Work in Somerset County?

If the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office files for a detention hearing at the individual’s Central Judicial Processing Hearing it means that they are seeking to keep the individual in the County Jail, without bail, pending trial. In order to do so, a formal hearing must be conducted and it will be the prosecution’s burden to convince a Judge, by clear and convincing evidence, that there are no conditions available to release the individual on bail pending trial. This is a very crucial aspect in an individual’s case. Once a determination is made, the individual can only seek release if there is a substantial change in circumstances. As one would imagine, seeking to defend allegations while being detained can be problematic. Some of the most common charges we see being issued on a complaint-warrant include terroristic threats, unlawful possession of a weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery and stalking.

Superior Court v. Municipal Court

The next step in the process that the individual most understand is whether their charges will be litigated in the Superior Court or the local Municipal Court. All indictable offenses, which is New Jersey’s version of a felony, must be litigated in the Superior Court in the County where the incident happened. For example, if an individual is arrested and charged with eluding in North Plainfield, their charges will be sent from the North Plainfield Municipal Court to the Somerset County Superior Courthouse for disposition. Conversely, all disorderly persons offenses, which is New Jersey’s version of a misdemeanor, will be sent to the local municipal court in the municipality where the incident happened for disposition. So, as you can see from reading above, the degree of the charge itself and not the charging document (Complaint-Warrant / Complaint-Summons) will dictate what court will have original jurisdiction over the charges. Here is a quick breakdown of the flow of the criminal case in each court.

  • Municipal Court (Misdemeanor Offenses)
    • Arrest / Processing (Complaint-Summons / Complaint-Warrant)
    • Detention Hearing -(if applicable)
    • Arraignment
    • Status Conferences
      • Motion Practice
    • Trial
    • Sentence
    • Appeal

Looking for help Defending Criminal Charges in Somerset County

The criminal defense lawyers at Keith Oliver Criminal Law fully understand the stress and anxiety that most undergo when they are involved in the criminal justice system, especially if it is for the first time. Our attorneys are dedicated to breaking down the process and explaining every step so that individuals can make an educated decision about their case. We will aggressively defend the allegations against you in order to secure the best possible outcome. To set up a free initial consultation, please contact our office at 908.533.1064. We serve all of Somerset and Hunterdon County, including towns like SomervilleFlemington, Clinton, Hillsborough, Readington, Bridgewater, Bernards, Raritan and Manville.

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.