How Does The Criminal
Process Work In NJ?
Q: What happens at the first appearance hearing at court?
A: Once arrested or issued a summons or notice to appear in court, you are given a date and time for your first appearance in court. If you fail to appear, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. The purpose of the first appearance hearing is for the judge to advise you of your rights and review bail.
Q: How soon is the court supposed to set bail?
A: NJ no longer operates on a bail system. Instead, if a complaint-warrant is issued against you, you are detained for up to 48 hours in jail while an assessment is made to determine if you can be released. While this new system is supposed to even the playing field for all arrest by eliminating the issue of people not being able to afford to post bail, it creates new problems by having everyone sent to jail in the beginning.
Q: What if I cannot afford a private attorney?
A: If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, you can apply to be represented by the public defender. The court will consider your assets and liabilities to determine if you qualify for a public defender. The court will review your tax returns, credit and wage records.
Q: What is a plea bargain?
A: In most cases, the prosecutor will review the matter to determine the amount of evidence against you. The prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain deal where a reduced term of jail or probation is offered in exchange for a guilty plea. In some cases, the charges are reduced or dismissed as part of the plea bargain.
Q: What is the pre-trial intervention program?
A: Pre-trial intervention, or PTI as it is commonly referred, provides a defendant, if eligible, with alternatives to the traditional criminal process. The PTI program is a diversionary program which permits certain defendants to avoid formal prosecution and conviction by entering into a term of court supervised community living, often with counseling or other support. Admission into the program depends on whether or not you have ever been charged with a crime, the type of crime you are currently charged with, and consent of the prosecutor, criminal division manager and judge. The objective of the PTI program is to provide incentive for first time non-violent offenders to rehabilitate.