The State of New Jersey has completely changed the manner in which the Police, Prosecutor’s Office, Superior and Municipal Courts will handle criminal cases. When a loved one or friend is arrested the first step in the process is the Police are now required to contact the local County Prosecutor’s Office to determine what criminal charges are appropriate and should the Defendant be transported to the County Jail for the next 24 hours. If the Police with the authorization of the Assistant Prosecutor on call decide to issue a Warrant Complaint, the Defendant is taken into custody and transported to the local County Jail. The Police will now issue Warrant Complaints for most Felony charges as well as some Disorderly Persons Offenses. This includes all cases charged under the Domestic Violence Act, even Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses. In the alternative, the Police do still have the ability to issue a Summons to a Defendant in certain circumstances. With a Summons Complaint the Defendant is released on their own recognizance and receives their first court date without remaining in custody or going to the county jail.
Should the Police issue a Warrant Complaint for the Defendant, they are due to appear in Court the following day for his/her first appearance before a Judge. The Defendant will most likely appear via a television screen as they are still in custody at the local jail. At that First Appearance the Defendant will be read their rights and the terms of their release will be determined. If the Defendant is released from custody they will be provided with a Court date for either Early Disposition Court (EDC) in the Superior Court if their case has remained charged as a felony or a date in the Municipal Court where the crime allegedly took place if the case has been downgraded to a Disorderly or Petty Disorderly Persons Offense. If the Prosecutor’s Office moves to hold a person in custody without affording them the opportunity for pre-trial release (only allowed in certain circumstances) a Superior Court Judge will conduct a detention review hearing in the following 48 hours. Obviously, the initial appearance and detention review are extremely important steps in the process and the best opportunity to have a loved one released from custody to handle their case. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential to assuring that this early part of the process is handled correctly and your friend or family member is released from custody. Conversely, if the Defendant was fortunate enough to have their case sent to the Municipal Court the procedures of those courts remain the same as prior to January 1, 2017.
Speedy Trial Rights
If a Defendant is detained in custody after the detention review, he/she may not remain in custody for more than 90 days without being indicted or formerly charged with the crime. If the Defendant is not indicted within 90 days he/she must be released from custody unless the Court decides it is unsafe. Once the Defendant is indicted by the Grand Jury there must be a trial within 180 days of that indictment, not counting excludable or exempt time. For the first time, it appears that New Jersey has provided the Defendant with Speedy Trial rights that have some reasonable and firm time frames for the completion of their case.
The Criminal Reform has taken New Jersey Criminal Courts into uncharted waters and the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney is greater than ever before. Should you wish to speak about your situation and receive a Free Consultation please reach out to my office.