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The Criminal Justice Process: A Brief Overview Before The Trial

criminal law

What to Expect After Being Arrested for a Crime in NJ

If you or a loved one is arrested on suspicion of a crime, it can be a scary and traumatizing time. But knowing how the charging process happens can give the accused and their family some direction and peace of mind. Here is a brief guide to the arrest and charging process in criminal law.

The Arrest and Criminal Charges

After someone is arrested, the police will fill out an arrest report detailing the basis for the arrest, the time of arrest, witnesses, and other relevant information about the event. That report is then passed on to a prosecutor (what kind of prosecutor depends on the type of crime and where it occurred), who reviews the report and comes to a decision on what to do next. First, they can drop the case altogether, and the person may be free to go. If the prosecutor thinks that charges should be filed, they have the option to fill out a “charging document” and determine which charges are appropriate in that case. They also have the option of sending the case to the grand jury, who decides if any charges (and which charges) are appropriate.

The defendant often learns what charges are being levied against them at their first court appearance, although these may be changed at a proceeding called a preliminary hearing.

The Preliminary Hearing

If the prosecutor decides to file the charging document and not go through the grand jury process, the defendant is entitled to what is known as a preliminary hearing. In this proceeding, the prosecutor must prove to a judge that they have enough evidence to go to trial. If not, the defendant may be free to go.

The Grand Jury

For most serious charges, like felony cases, the prosecutor will turn to a grand jury proceeding. Like a regular jury, grand jury is composed of randomly selected members of the community, but their purpose is examine the evidence and determine if there is enough to formally charge (indict) the defendant. Grand juries don’t make determinations of innocence or guilt. Grand jury proceedings are secret, and they don’t need to be unanimous in order to decide that charges are warranted.

Jurisdictional Differences

There are often small differences in the charging process depending on the state you are in, and if the charges you face stem from state law or federal law. If you are being charged under federal law, the procedure will be the same no matter what state you are in. Every state has their own procedures when it comes to arrest and charging programs. Generally speaking, federal charges are often more serious crimes that come with more serious punishment. Offenses that are local or more personal are often addressed by state law, like DUI, murder, robbery, arson, and sexual assault. On the other hand, federal law addresses broader crimes that cross state borders like mail fraud, tax evasion, human trafficking, and child pornography.

Seek Legal Help!

Whether state or federal, all criminal charges are serious matters that need serious attention. The first thing to do is to contact an experienced criminal law attorney to assess your case and make sure your rights are being protected. They can help identify and explain the applicable laws in your case and form a strategy on how to proceed.

Contact An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Charges Today!

Were you arrested or charged with a crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The Law Offices of Stephen R. Piper have successfully represented clients in Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, Cumberland County and throughout South Jersey, and in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania. Call 856-861-3330 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office located at the Strawbridge Professional Center of Moorestown, 212 W Route 38, Ste 440, Moorestown, NJ 08057.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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