Criminal Law in New Jersey
If you feel overwhelmed and uncertain of the next step because you or a loved one is being questioned by police or has been arrested, this article was written for you. A qualified New Jersey criminal defense attorney can evaluate your criminal case, create effective legal strategies, and defend you in court.
Because jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record may be possible and your future is at stake, we’ll discuss:
- New Jersey specific criminal laws;
- What you need to know about criminal defense in New Jersey; and
- How to work with your New Jersey criminal defense attorney.
New Jersey Criminal Laws
Laws are written and applied to provide notice of what constitutes a crime and to serve both as a deterrent and as a punishment. The goal is to provide protection from harmful behavior.
New Jersey criminal laws are found in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. The Code includes all New Jersey crimes such as resisting arrest, harassment, bad checks, criminal trespass, shoplifting, theft as well as simple and aggravated assault.
Your criminal defense attorney will explain exactly what crime you’ve been charged with and what that means for you.
Statute of Limitations
There is a time limit on some criminal charges; the time limit is called the “statute of limitations”. If a criminal act happened too far in the past, charges may be barred. Some crimes, such as murder and manslaughter, have no time limit.
For example, in New Jersey, the statute of limitations for:
- Misdemeanors,including petty offenses or disorderly persons,are 1 year.
- Official misconduct, bribery, and related offenses are 7 years.
- Sexual assault or endangering the welfare of children, wherein the victim is under 18, is 5 years after the child attains the age of 18.
In New Jersey, crimes are placed into one of three categories (first degree, second degree, and third & fourth degree). Your sentence will be based upon which category the crime is placed. First degree crimes are more serious than fourth degree crimes.
- If there are circumstances that make the crime more serious, these are called “aggravating circumstances”. Aggravating circumstances will increase the criminal punishment.
- If there are circumstances that make the crime less serious, these are referred to as “mitigating circumstances”. Mitigating circumstances will decrease the punishment.
Your criminal defense lawyer will explain exactly what punishment you are facing.
What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense
If you are being questioned about or have been arrested for a crime in New Jersey, get legal help. After all, think of everything that is at risk.
- Ask the bar association or friends for referrals or simply Google, “How to find a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney.”
- Asking for an attorney doesn’t indicate that you’ve done anything wrong.
- Regardless of whether you’re innocent or guilty – or somewhere in between – you need to be represented by a defense lawyer.
- Ask police for an attorney if you are not permitted to leave the police station or wherever you are.
Your criminal defense lawyer will explain anything else you need to know about criminal law and your individual situation.
How to Work with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
Your attorney will always be working in your best interests. Keep this in mind when you choose how to act or react to anything your attorney says or does.
- Follow your lawyer’s advice. Your attorney has education, training, and experience that you don’t have. Moreover, he or she can look at your self objectively. You cannot.
- Explain what happened to your attorney – include the details you’d rather forget. This means include specifics even if they make you look bad.
- Return all phone calls promptly.
- Provide all requested information promptly.
- If your phone number or address changes, update your attorney’s office immediately.
- It’s okay for your attorney to question you, even challenge you. Remember, everything is in your best interests – and for a reason.
- It’s normal, professional, and appropriate for your attorney to be polite and cooperative with police officers and prosecutors. It’s part of the process.
Bottom Line: If you have been questioned in or accused of a crime in New Jersey, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. Whether innocent or guilty, you need representation. Your next step is to call a criminal defense attorney now.