Have you recently been arrested or charged with a crime in Essex County, New Jersey? This is undoubtedly a frightening time for you and your family. A lot hangs in the balance—later in this article, we'll cover what's at stake for folks in this situation—and there are a lot of contributing factors that will determine your fate from here on out.
One of the most important factors is having a compassionate, expert attorney by your side as you move through the justice system. Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey criminal defense attorney with a deep understanding of the state and local courts. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm would be happy to speak to you about your case, so be sure to call and set up an appointment for a consultation. In the meantime, read on for more information about what to expect from Essex County courts.
In NJ, There Are No Felonies or Misdemeanors
In this state, there's no such thing as a felony or misdemeanor. Of course, that certainly doesn't mean that we live in anarchy. New Jersey has plenty of laws on the books—it's just that we use different terms to describe the different types of criminal acts. The term “indictable offense” is used instead of “felony,” and a crime that's a “misdemeanor” elsewhere is called a “disorderly persons offense.”
New Jersey is one of the states that requires a grand jury indictment for all serious crimes—about half of the U.S. follows suit, while the other half have made indictments optional. This is why felony-level crimes are deemed “indictable offenses” here. No lesser crimes, the type categorized as misdemeanors in many places, require a grand jury or an indictment.
Indictable offenses include arson, armed robbery, assault, burglary, drug distribution, extortion, kidnapping, manslaughter, and murder. Some common disorderly persons offenses are disorderly conduct, harassment, simple assault, resisting arrest, marijuana possession (less than 50 grams), and writing bad checks.
What Can Happen After Being Charged with a Crime in Essex County
After you have been charged with a criminal offense at the indictable offense level, you will attend a detention hearing, at which the judge will decide your fate for the next few weeks. Thanks to bail reform enacted in New Jersey in 2017, many fewer people are detained in jail pending the next steps of their case. Here's what could happen:
- You will perhaps be released on your own recognizance. You've probably heard this phrase in TV shows or movies. It sounds fancy, but it simply means that you go home—although often with conditions, including travel restrictions and behavioral requirements. This is typical for first-time offenders and lower-level crimes.
- You could be remanded but eligible to bail out. In some cases, the judge may feel that bail is appropriate, to minimize the risk that you'll flee the state.
- You might be remanded, full stop. When the judge makes this ruling, it's because they fear you'll go on the run or feel that you pose a threat to the community.
With disorderly persons offenses, the defendant is usually issued a first court appearance date and allowed to go home.
Criminal Convictions and Their Repercussions
No matter which option is applied in your circumstance, your next order of business is to secure the services of qualified criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. It's time to arm yourself with information in order to prepare your defense or decide to pursue a plea deal. Your attorney can also advise you about the possibility of a pretrial diversion program, if applicable.
What's at stake if you are convicted of a crime? Many people in your position think that going to jail will be the worst outcome possible. Others are concerned that hefty fines will devastate their finances or that they'll have to spend hours and hours of their life performing community service. Still others who are convicted bristle at the idea of being under the watchful eye of a parole or probation officer for years to come.
All of these are very real punishments. There are others to consider, as well. These include:
- Difficulty finding employment as a convicted felon
- Difficulty finding housing if a landlord runs a background check on you
- The requirement to register as a sex offender, if applicable
- Loss of custody or visitation rights
- Emotional repercussions. There's a great deal of stigma and shame associated with criminal convictions. Depending on the severity of your crime, you could lose the support of friends and family members. And it can be difficult to hold your head up if you live in a small community where others know about your record.
Mistakes and the Lessons We Can Learn From Them
Everyone makes mistakes in their life—it's a cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true. Such mistakes may be the result of temporary intoxication or chronic drug addiction, mental health problems, youthful indiscretion due to underdeveloped cognition, or financial desperation. Sometimes us humans just make boneheaded decisions. Very rarely, however, do these contributing factors merit locking a person behind bars and throwing away the key.
Ideally, you will learn the lesson(s) from your crime without suffering undue punishment. For many people, being criminally charged is a valuable wake-up call, causing them to take stock of their behavior and seek help for the underlying issues that set them on this delinquent path.
Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have been instrumental in assisting clients not only in court but as they change the entire course of their life. They can help you write your comeback story, too. Call them at 1-888-535-3683 or use this convenient form to tell them about your situation.