Being arrested or charged with a crime in Atlantic County, NJ, can be quite a serious matter, even for a so-called minor offense. It can be disruptive to your life, your family, and your daily routine, and it presents a lot of uncertainty for the future—and even more so if convicted. How do you handle yourself in the Atlantic County courts? Could your job be jeopardized? What becomes of your children? How would a criminal record affect your life—whether or not you see any jail time?
Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey criminal defense attorney with an excellent track record and plenty of experience in the New Jersey court systems in general. The following information is provided by the Lento Law Firm to arm you with the knowledge to alleviate some of these concerns and help you understand your path forward.
What Happens When You're Charged with a Crime in Atlantic County, NJ
When you face criminal charges, the first thing to understand is that regardless of whether these charges result in a conviction, there will be some impact on your life and family—at least for the short term. While New Jersey criminal reforms have pretty much eliminated bail requirements for most cases, the courts will still evaluate your “risk”. They may impose certain conditions and restrictions as part of your “conditional release” while you await trial. Below are just a few of the possible limits they may prescribe:
- You may be mandated to stay at your current job (or actively seek employment if unemployed).
- You may be assigned to someone else's custody while awaiting trial.
- You may be given a curfew.
- You may be required to check in periodically with local law enforcement.
- Consumption of alcohol or recreational drugs may revoke your conditional release.
- You may face restrictions on where/when you can travel.
- If your alleged crime involved violence against a friend or loved one, you may be slapped with a restraining order forbidding you to see them.
- If you are deemed a high “flight risk,” the judge may set non-monetary bail and keep you in jail (known as “pre-trial detention”).
Not everyone faces such restrictions, and some are simply released on their own recognizance—but you need to be aware of the possibility that you may face some of these restrictions pending trial. A good defense attorney can often negotiate to minimize the level of restriction you will deal with.
What Happens if You Are Convicted?
If your pre-trial period seems disruptive, being convicted of the charges is even more so. Conviction of a crime in New Jersey can result in any/all of the following repercussions:
- Fines, probation, and/or jail time.
- Job loss and financial difficulty. You obviously can't work if you are incarcerated, and criminal charges could cost you your job even if you don't go to jail. Either way, providing for your family may become more challenging.
- Limited future job prospects. A criminal conviction on your record can limit which types of jobs you can work; it can also have an impact on who is willing to hire you.
- Custody challenges. Sometimes a criminal conviction can play negatively in child custody disputes—and in some cases can result in losing custody or visitation rights altogether.
How Misdemeanors and Felonies Are Defined in New Jersey
New Jersey uses different terms than most states to describe misdemeanors and felonies—although they are effectively handled the same way in the courts. In New Jersey, misdemeanors are known as disorderly persons offenses, and felonies are referred to as indictable offenses. Let's discuss the differences between these and give some examples.
What Are Disorderly Persons Offenses?
In New Jersey, disorderly persons offenses are considered “minor” crimes calling for lesser penalties, not unlike misdemeanors in other states. Some examples of disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey include:
- Disorderly conduct
- Marijuana possession (less than 50 grams)
- Simple assault
- Bad check writing
- Shoplifting (less than $200)
- Resisting arrest
If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense in Atlantic County, NJ, you will appear in the Municipal Court for your local jurisdiction, whether it's Egg Harbor, Folsom, Hamilton Township, Atlantic City, etc. Penalties for disorderly persons offenses typically involve lesser fines and/or community service, probation, and occasionally some jail time. First-time offenders generally don't face jail time for disorderly persons offenses, but it's still possible to be sentenced a maximum of $1000 in fines and six months in jail.
Again, an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can often work with the courts to mitigate the penalties for conviction, or even to have the charges dismissed.
Indictable Offenses in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of only a few states in which prosecutors must obtain a grand jury indictment to charge you with a felony-level crime. For that reason, the state refers to these crimes as indictable offenses rather than felonies. If you have been charged with an indictable offense in Atlantic County, your trial will be held in Superior Court either in Atlantic City or Mays Landing.
Indictable offenses in New Jersey are categorized by degrees (Fourth, Third, Second, and First) with penalties of increasing severity for each. For example, a Fourth-Degree indictable offense carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines, while a First-Degree offense could result in life in prison and fines up to $200,000.
Examples of indictable offenses in New Jersey include:
- Drug distribution
- Marijuana possession (more than 50 grams)
- Aggravated assault
- Criminal restraint
- Sexual assault/rape
- Armed robbery
About Atlantic County, New Jersey Courts
New Jersey's court system has a fairly simple hierarchy in which certain crimes are handled in specific courts according to severity. Let's discuss the specific types of courts you may encounter if charged with a crime in Atlantic County.
Municipal Courts in Atlantic County
Municipal Courts are considered the lowest tier in the New Jersey court system. They handle minor traffic and vehicle offenses along with any crime calling for less than six months in jail (i.e., disorderly person offenses). If you're charged with an indictable offense, your preliminary hearing will probably take place in Municipal Court to determine whether to you're your case to Superior Court for trial. There are no jury trials in Municipal Court. Both sides present their case before the presiding judge who issues a ruling.
There are 19 Municipal Courts located throughout Atlantic County. If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense, you will appear in one of these courts according to where your alleged offense took place:
Absecon Municipal Court
500 Mill Road, Absecon, NJ 08201
Phone: 609-641-0663 ext. 129
Atlantic City Municipal Court
2715 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Brigantine Municipal Court
1417 West Brigantine Avenue, Brigantine, NJ 08203
Corbin City Municipal Court
2100 Tuckahoe Road, Petersburg, NJ 08270
Phone: 609-628-2011 ext. 235
Egg Harbor City Municipal Court
500 London Avenue, Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215
Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court
3515 Bargaintown Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
Estell Manor Municipal Court
148 Cumberland Avenue, Estell Manor, NJ 08319
Folsom Municipal Court
1700 12th Street, Folsom, NJ 08037
Galloway Township Municipal Court
300 East Jimmie Leeds Road, Galloway, NJ 08205
Phone: 609-652-3700 ext. 1
Hamilton Township Municipal Court
6101 13th Street, Mays Landing, NJ 08330
Hammonton Joint Municipal Court
100 Central Avenue, Hammonton, NJ 08037
Phone: 609-567-4300 ext. 3
Longport Municipal Court
2305 Atlantic Avenue, Longport, NJ 08403
Phone: 609-823-2731 ext. 112
Margate Municipal Court
9001 Winchester Avenue, Margate, NJ 08402
Mullica Township Municipal Court
4528 White Horse Pike, Elwood, NJ 08217
Northfield Municipal Court
1600 Shore Road, Northfield, NJ 08225
Phone: 609-641-2832 ext. 125
Pleasantville Municipal Court
18 North 1st Street, Pleasantville, NJ 08232
Port Republic Municipal Court
143 Main Street, Port Republic, NJ 08241
Somers Point Municipal Court
1 West New Jersey Avenue, Somers Point, NJ 08244
Ventnor City Municipal Court
6201 Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor, NJ 08406
Superior Courts in Atlantic County
Superior Courts in New Jersey are the “jury trial” courts, handling both civil and criminal cases. If you have been charged with an indictable offense and your case goes to trial, it will be held at the following Superior Court location in Atlantic County:
Atlantic County Superior Court
Atlantic County Criminal Courts Complex
4997 Unami Blvd, Mays Landing, NJ 08330
What if I Wish to Appeal My Verdict?
You have the right to appeal a conviction whether your case takes place in Municipal or Superior Court. Your attorney will first appeal your case to the Appellate Division of Superior Court and, if applicable, to the New Jersey Supreme Court. There are no juries in these courts, no calling of witnesses, and no presenting of additional evidence; they simply review the case for errors and ensure due process was served. Appeals can result in significant additional expense, and they aren't always feasible. Your attorney can advise you as to whether it's in your best interests to appeal a case.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey
If you're facing criminal charges in Atlantic County, New Jersey, no matter how minor, the ramifications for you and your family can be significant. For this reason, you want to go into the process with the best possible advantage—and that means hiring a skilled, experienced criminal defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended many clients in Atlantic County courtrooms, and he will draw upon his extensive experience in New Jersey courts to help you obtain the best possible outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 for more information.