Steps in the New Jersey Criminal Case Process

Criminal Case Attorneys in Monmouth County

The criminal justice process can seem like a long, intimidating, uncharted road fraught with opportunities for a wrong turn or issue that creates problems for the rest of your life. When you get involved in a criminal case, it is critical to know the steps in the process, what happens in each stage, what your rights are, and what happens next. Here is a useful roadmap for what happens when someone is accused, suspected of, investigated, or charged with a crime in New Jersey. Of course, the best thing you can do is to have a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can help you navigate the road ahead toward the top achievable conclusion of your case. Contact our Monmouth County criminal law office now at 732-858-6959 if you are in need of personalized answers and assistance. The consultation is absolutely free of charge.

Being Investigated vs. Charged with a Crime

Right out of the box it is important to know whether you have been formally charged with a crime or whether you are under investigation.

  • If you are currently under investigation, it is important that you understand your rights, especially when it comes to speaking to law enforcement.  Understanding the process and your rights within is crucial, especially when your liberty is on the line.
  • If you have been formally charged with a crime, the next step is determining whether you have been charged on a Complaint-Summons or a Complaint-Warrant.

How is the Defendant Charged with a Criminal Offense? Complaint-Summons vs. Complaint-Warrant.

In order to understand the process of a criminal case in New Jersey, one must first determine whether the charges were issued on what is know as a Complaint-Summons or a Complaint-Warrant.

  • Anyone charged with a crime that has been issued on a Complaint-Summons will be taken down to the local police station for processing and will ultimately be released on their own recognizance (ROR). Meaning, they will be released without the need of posting a monetary bail but with a future court date.
  • Conversely, anyone charged with a crime that has been issued on a Complaint-Warrant will be taken to the local police station for processing. However, once processing has been complete the individual will need to be taken to the Monmouth County Jail, which is located in Freehold Township where they will await their Central Judicial Processing Hearing (CJP).

What Happens if You are Held in Jail after being Arrested in Monmouth County?

  • If a person is arrested and kept in jail after being charged with a crime, the next step will be the individual’s first court appearance. During this hearing, the individual will be advised of the charges levied against them, the potential penalties and an initial not guilty plea will be entered. If this individual has been charged on a Complaint-Warrant, then this hearing must occur within 48 hours of them being lodged in the County Jail. Also at this hearing the individual will be advised of whether or not the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will be agreeing to release them from the County Jail on conditions or whether they will be filling a motion for Detention. If the individual is released on conditions, one of those conditions will be to appear at their next scheduled court date, which will also be provided.

What Happens at a Bail Hearing in Monmouth County?

  • If a formal motion for detention has been filed, then a Detention Hearing will be conducted. This hearing typically occurs within five (5) days of the individual’s Central Judicial Processing Hearing. During this hearing, the Judge will hear arguments from both the prosecution as well as defense counsel as to whether conditions can be put into place in order to release the individual on bail or whether they need to be held in the County Jail without bail, pending trial.

Steps when Charged with a Disorderly Persons Offense in Monmouth County

  • All disorderly persons offense, which as stated earlier, are known as misdemeanors, will be litigated in the local municipal court in the municipality where the incident happened. Here is an example: Defendant is arrested and charged on a Complaint-Warrant with domestic violence simple assault offense in Middletown Township. Since it is on a Complaint-Warrant, they will be taken to the Middletown Police Department for processing then to the Monmouth County Jail in Freehold. Once they are released from the County Jail, whether it be at the defendant’s Central Judicial Processing Hearing or their Detention Hearing, they will be released with a notice to appear in the Middletown Municipal Court. Their case will be litigated in its entirety in the Middletown Municipal Court. It is important to note that if a temporary restraining order is filed in conjunction with a simple assault charge, then that case will be handled separately in Monmouth County Family Court. A restraining order is a civil matter which exists separate and apart for the criminal case process.

Stages when Facing Indictable Charges in Monmouth County Criminal Court

  • All indictable offense that occur within Monmouth County will be litigated in the Monmouth County Superior Court, which is located in Freehold Township, as opposed to the local municipal court.
    • Once the Defendant undergoes their Central Judicial Processing Hearing their case will be scheduled for a Pre-Indictment Conference (PIC).
    • If the case does not resolve at the defendant’s PIC hearing their case will be marked for the Grand Jury.
    • If an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury the defendant will then be scheduled for their Arraignment.
    • Following the defendant’s arraignment they will be scheduled for several status conferences. During these hearing negotiations will be taking place between defense counsel and the prosecution in order to seek to resolve the case prior to trial. Also during this time period pretrial hearings such as Miranda MotionsSuppression Motions, Motions to Dismiss Indictment and Severance Motions can be litigated.
    • If the case does not resolve during this phase in the case, the matter will be set down for trial.
    • Depending on the result of the trial or if a plea is reached, the matter will be set down for sentencing. It is at this hearing that the defendant will learn the consequences of his charges. Notably, if the defendant is convicted after a trial, the defendant’s attorney has the opportunity to argue for the best possible sentence in their case by presenting mitigating factors, which serve to counteract what are known as aggravating factors.
    • Lastly, depending on the outcome of the sentence or any pretrial motion, the appeals process will begin.

Get Defense Help with the Criminal Process in Monmouth County NJ

When you find yourself at any stage of the criminal legal process, don’t go it alone. Simply too much is on the line for you and your family to risk. By enlisting the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney with intimate knowledge of the way the system works and what can be done to best serve your interests at every step on the road ahead, you can put yourself in a position to reach a favorable result. To speak with one of our dedicated criminal law attorneys with local offices in Monmouth County free of charge, do not hesitate to call 732-858-6959.

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.