Being arrested or charged with a crime in Cumberland County, NJ is certainly a serious matter. Even for a minor offense, your family could be seriously affected even before your trial happens, and a conviction could upend your life completely.
Being charged with a crime can cause a lot of anxiety over the uncertainty of it all. If you've recently been accused of a crime, you may have a multitude of questions. What will happen in the courtroom? What do these charges mean for my family? My job? What will become of my children if I go to jail? How will my career be affected?
The Lento Law Firm has put together the following information to help you understand what's at stake when charged with a crime in New Jersey. We'll talk about the different types of courts in Cumberland County, the types of crimes that are tried there, and the possible penalties. And we'll also talk about how hiring an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help mitigate the damage and improve your chances for a more favorable outcome.
What Happens When You're Charged with a Crime in Cumberland County, NJ
From the moment you are arrested or receive a court summons, you need to be prepared for your life to experience some disruption—at least for the short term. New Jersey has recently passed extensive reforms that all but eliminate the bail system, but even with a conditional release, the courts may still place some restrictions on you while you await trial. Examples may include:
- The enforcement of a personal curfew.
- A requirement to check in with local law enforcement regularly.
- Restrictions on alcohol consumption.
- Restrictions on travel out of state.
- Requiring you to remain gainfully employed (or to be actively seeking employment if you were unemployed)
- Being placed in custody of another designated person until your trial.
- Restraining orders that forbid you from contact with a family member or friend (typically if your alleged offense involved violence against that person).
If this is your first offense or you are not considered much of a flight risk, it's possible you will be released from custody on your own recognizance, at which point you can resume your normal routine until your case goes to trial. At the other extreme, if the judge feels it's risky to release you, he/she may prescribe bail in some cases, or in other cases, may keep you in custody pending trial. A good defense attorney can often have these restrictions minimized or eliminated, but you need to be prepared for every eventuality.
What Happens if You Are Convicted?
If your case is dismissed or you are acquitted of the charges, any restrictions placed on you will be removed, and you'll be free to resume your normal routine. But if you are convicted, the disruption to your life may be longer lasting. A conviction may cause any/all of the following repercussions.
- Fines, probation, community service, and/or jail time.
- Financial difficulties. Even if you don't go to jail (which would obviously stop you from being able to provide for your family), a conviction could jeopardize your employment status.
- Limitations on your future employment options. A conviction on your criminal record can restrict you from working at certain jobs, and it may also affect an employer's willingness to hire you.
- Jeopardizing custody of your children. A criminal conviction may not play well in custody disputes, and in certain circumstances, it may cost you your custody and/or visitation rights altogether.
Disorderly Persons Offenses versus Indictable Offenses in New Jersey
Unlike most other states, New Jersey doesn't refer to crimes as “misdemeanors” and “felonies,” although the penalties for those crimes is similar to those of other states. In New Jersey, misdemeanor-level crimes are called disorderly persons offenses, and felony-level crimes are indictable offenses. Let's discuss the differences between them.
Disorderly Persons Offenses (Misdemeanors) in New Jersey
Disorderly persons offenses are considered “minor” crimes in New Jersey, and they are accompanied by fairly modest penalties in most cases. Some examples of disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey:
- Marijuana possession (less than 50 grams)
- Disorderly conduct
- Resisting arrest
- Simple assault
- Shoplifting (less than $200)
- Writing bad checks
If you are charged with a disorderly persons offense in Cumberland County, your case will be heard in the Municipal Court serving your area, depending on whether the alleged offense occurred in Millville, Pittsgrove Township, Vineland, etc. The maximum penalty for disorderly persons offenses is $1000 in fines and no more than six months in jail—however, milder penalties such as probation, community service, and smaller fines are more common for these offenses, especially with first-time offenders. Your chances of a milder sentence improve greatly with an experienced defense attorney in your corner—and in many cases, the attorney can even get the charges dismissed.
Indictable Offenses (Felonies) in New Jersey
Crimes at the felony level are called indictable offenses in New Jersey—a term that is appropriate because New Jersey is one of a handful of states that requires a grand jury indictment for all felony-level charges. If you're indicted by the state for a crime allegedly committed in Cumberland County, your trial will be held in Bridgeton at the Cumberland County Superior Court.
Examples of indictable offenses in New Jersey include:
- Marijuana possession (more than 50 grams)
- Aggravated assault
- Drug distribution
- Sexual assault/rape
- Armed robbery
Indictable offenses are categorized as Fourth, Third, Second, or First Degree crimes, with penalties of increasing severity for each. A Fourth-Degree offense, for example, carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000, while a First-Degree offense may result in life in prison and fines up to $200,000.
Courts in Cumberland County, New Jersey
New Jersey has structured its court system in a fairly straightforward way, making it easy to figure out which specific court will handle your case.
Municipal Courts in Cumberland County
Municipal Courts represent the lowest tier in the New Jersey court system, handling minor offenses like traffic citations and parking violations, along with disorderly persons offenses of all varieties. These courts also host preliminary hearings for indictable offenses to decide whether to send these cases “up the chain” for trial. There are no jury trials held in Municipal Court; the judge makes the ruling and passes sentence (if applicable) after both sides have presented their case.
Cumberland County currently has six Municipal Court locations as follows:
Bridgeton Joint Municipal Court
330 Fayette Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302
Commercial Township Municipal Court
1768 Main Street, Port Norris, NJ 08349
Phone: 856-785-3100 ext. 316
Cumberland Salem Regional Municipal Court
1325 Highway 77, Seabrook, NJ 08302
Maurice River Township Municipal Court
590 Main Street, PO Box 218, Leesburg, NJ 08327
Phone: 856-785-1120 ext. 110
Millville Municipal Court
18 South High Street, Millville, NJ 08332
Phone: 856-825-7000 ext. 7619
Vineland Municipal Court
736 East Landis Avenue, Vineland, NJ 08360
Phone: 856-794-4214 ext. 4701
Superior Courts in Cumberland County
Superior Courts are the primary trial courts for the State of New Jersey, handling all jury trials involving indictable offenses as well as family law matters and most civil suits. Cumberland County is served by a single Superior Court, located in Bridgeton:
Cumberland County Superior Court
Cumberland County Courthouse
60 West Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302
Appeals Courts in New Jersey
Whether your trial takes place in Municipal or Superior Court, you have the legal right to appeal an adverse decision. If you choose to do so (and if you and your attorney feel there are sufficient grounds for it), your attorney will file the appeal at the Appellate Division of Superior Court, and then, if applicable, to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Neither of these courts hear additional evidence or call witnesses; your attorney will submit briefs and present oral arguments before the judges on your behalf. At both the Appellate Division and the Supreme Court level, the judges may uphold the lower court decision; remand the case back to the lower court with corrections; or overturn the decision completely.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Cumberland County, New Jersey
No matter how minor the charges you are facing, the repercussions on your family can be significant if you are convicted. For that reason, you should never face criminal charges in New Jersey without the assistance of a qualified, experienced defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended his clients in Cumberland County courtrooms for many years. He understands the inner workings of the New Jersey courts, and he knows how to position your defense for the best possible outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today for an initial consultation.