Criminal Defense Attorney, Passaic County, NJ

Being arrested or charged with a crime in Passaic County, NJ, is something that can upset your life and the lives of those close to you. In addition to the uncertainty and even fear that you may experience personally, you also may have family and friends who will want to know what's going to happen to you and whether and how this could change your life and theirs.

Of course, how serious this is will depend on the facts of your particular situation. Even a very minor criminal charge, however, can cause you sleepless nights if you are not familiar with the criminal justice system in Passaic County and in New Jersey. You owe it to yourself and those who care about you to contact a criminal defense attorney with the experience and knowledge to help you answer these questions and help you defend yourself against these charges.

The Lento Law Firm is comprised of experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys who can help defend you if you've been charged with a crime in Passaic County. The following information will give you some idea of how the criminal trial system works in Passaic County and will also explain some of the potential problems associated with being charged with and convicted of a crime. Once you've had an opportunity to review this information, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at (888) 535-3686 or through our contact form today to learn more about how we can help.

What Can Happen After You Are Charged With a Crime in Passaic County, NJ

Being charged with a crime can mean more than simply having to show up in court at some point in the future for a trial. Once you've been charged, a whole range of restrictions on your freedom are possible, even if you aren't kept in custody until trial. (Most defendants in New Jersey are not held in jail pending trial or even required to post bail, though bail laws do change.) A judge can still place a number of conditions on your release, however, which can seriously impact how you live your life. Depending on the type and severity of the crime you're charged with, these can include the following:

  • You could be placed in the temporary custody of a friend, family member, or some other person who is responsible for making sure you appear for hearings and trial and that you follow other conditions of your release.
  • You may be prohibited from leaving New Jersey or the United States.
  • The judge may order you to stay at your current place of employment or to look for work if you're not employed.
  • You could be required to observe a curfew or avoid certain places of business, like bars or clubs.
  • The judge may require you to periodically report to the police or other law enforcement.
  • You might be ordered not to have contact with certain people, particularly if your crime involved violence against someone else.

Not all cases involve restrictions; you may be released by the judge with no restrictions at all, and in that case, you'll be free to carry on with your usual life provided you appear for scheduled hearings and for trial if your case goes to trial. Sometimes, however, the court might decide you are a flight risk, and in that case, you'll face the possibility of being kept in jail until trial. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help you negotiate with the court to try to give you as much freedom as possible before your trial and reduce these sorts of potential restrictions

What Happens if Convicted

A conviction of criminal charges in Passaic County, NJ, can mean problems that go well beyond simply paying a fine or even serving time in jail. And yes, while having to deal with probation, fines, community service, or jail time is serious and disruptive, there are other problems that can result, which can include the following:

  • Financial problems. If you're in jail, you won't be employed and will probably not be able to support your family. Even a conviction with no jail time is something many employers will frown upon, and you could find yourself free but out of a job.
  • Problems finding work. A criminal conviction is not something most employers are happy to see on an application. Your conviction could make it very difficult to find a well-paying job, and you may be prohibited entirely from working in some fields that require a license or certification.
  • Problems finding a place to live. Landlords and mortgage lenders may not want to do business with someone who has been convicted of a crime. And for certain types of crimes, such as sex-related ones, you may be prohibited by law from living in certain areas (near schools, playgrounds, or community centers that serve children).
  • Problems keeping custody of your children. Obviously, if you are in jail, you cannot care for your children, and if you are a single parent, that can mean your children enter foster care. Furthermore, a conviction could make it difficult to keep custody even if you avoid jail time since a criminal conviction can be used against you in a custody dispute.

Categories of Crimes in New Jersey

New Jersey has two categories of crimes, labeled somewhat differently than in most other states. Instead of misdemeanors, New Jersey has "disorderly persons" offenses, and instead of felonies, New Jersey has "indictable" offenses.

Disorderly Persons Offenses in New Jersey

As noted above, New Jersey's disorderly persons offenses are basically like other states' misdemeanors. These are the more minor offenses that generally result in lower fines and shorter jail terms. Some examples of disorderly persons offenses are:

  • Harassment
  • Resisting arrest
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Shoplifting (under $200)
  • Writing bad checks
  • Simple assault

Disorderly persons offenses in Passaic County (as well as in all of New Jersey) are tried by the Municipal Courts. If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense in Passaic County, your case will be heard by the Municipal Court located in the town or borough where you were charged, whether that's in Clifton, Little Falls, Ringwood, Totowa, or another town or borough in Passaic County; see the list of Passaic County Municipal Courts below.

The sentences imposed for convictions of disorderly persons offenses are relatively mild and often are a mix of probation, community service, or fines, especially if this is your first offense. In some cases, however, fines can go as high as $1000, and jail sentences of up to six months can result. Having an experienced attorney working on your behalf can often help reduce the severity of the sentence imposed and sometimes can keep you out of jail entirely. Where the situation justifies it, experienced counsel can point out the flaws in the prosecution's case and may be able to convince the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charge against you.

What Are Indictable Offenses in New Jersey

Before a prosecutor can bring an indictable offense charge against you in New Jersey, the prosecutor needs to present the case to a grand jury and obtain an indictment. This, perhaps obviously, is why felony-level crimes in New Jersey are called indictable offenses. Some examples of indictable offenses in New Jersey are:

  • Homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Drug distribution
  • Marijuana possession (more than 6 ounces)
  • Unlawful possession of a weapon
  • Aggravated assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Burglary
  • Lewdness
  • Forgery
  • Kidnapping

There are four levels of indictable offenses, ranging from Fourth (the least serious) up to First (the most serious). Sentences for a Fourth Degree Indictable Offense conviction can include fines of up to $10,000 and jail sentences of up to 18 months, while sentences for a conviction of a First Degree Indictable Offense can include fines of up to $200,000 and life in prison. Being charged with an indictable offense is obviously very serious, and if you find yourself in that situation, you should seek the help of an experienced defense attorney immediately.

Courts in Passaic County, New Jersey

There are four levels of courts in the New Jersey court system: Municipal, Superior, Appellate, and Supreme. Of those, the first two, Municipal and Superior, handle most of the criminal court cases in the state.

Municipal Courts in Passaic County

Municipal Courts are the lowest tier of courts in the New Jersey court system, but they are very important because they handle almost all minor offenses, such as traffic tickets and disorderly persons offenses. Because the cases are relatively minor, they are not tried by a jury. The judge hears the evidence and arguments from the prosecutor and the defense and then delivers the verdict and, if the defendant is convicted, imposes the sentence. The Municipal Courts do not try the more serious indictable offenses, but they will hold preliminary hearings for those types of crimes to determine whether the case should go to trial.

Passaic County is served by 16 Municipal Court locations:

Bloomingdale Municipal Court

101 Hamburg Turnpike

Bloomingdale, NJ 07403

Phone: 973-838-0127

Clifton Municipal Court

900 Clifton Avenue

Clifton, NJ 07013

Phone: 973-470-5860

Haledon Borough Municipal Court

510 Belmont Avenue

Haledon, NJ 07508

Phone: 973-790-0500

Hawthorne Borough Municipal Court

445 Lafayette Avenue

Hawthorne NJ 07506

Phone: 973-427-4767

Little Falls Municipal Court

225 Main Street

Little Falls, NJ 07424

Phone: 973-256-2400

North Haledon Municipal Court

103 Overlook Avenue

North Haledon, NJ 07508

Phone: 973-423-0232

Passaic City Municipal Court

330 Passaic Street

Passaic, NJ 07055

Phone: 973-365-3975

Paterson Municipal Court

111 Broadway

Paterson, NJ 07505

Phone: 973-321-1515

Pompton Lakes Municipal Court

25 Lenox Avenue

Pompton Lakes, NJ 07442

Phone: 973-616-5908

Prospect Park Municipal Court

106 Brown Avenue

Prospect Park, NJ 07508

Phone: 973-790-7902

Ringwood Borough Municipal Court

60 Margaret King Avenue

Ringwood, NJ 07456

Phone: 973-962-6146

Totowa Borough Municipal Court

537 Totowa Road

Totowa, NJ 07512

Phone: 973-956-1005

Wanaque Borough Municipal Court

579 Ringwood Ave

Wanaque, NJ 07465

Phone: 973-839-3000

Wayne Township Municipal Court

475 Valley Road

Wayne, NJ 07470

Phone: 973-694-1800

West Milford Township Court

1480 Union Valley Road

West Milford, NJ 07480

Phone: 973-728-2750

Woodland Park Municipal Court

5 Brophy Lane

Woodland Park NJ 07424

Phone: 973-345-8100

Superior Courts in Passaic County

Superior Courts are where indictable offenses are tried, usually by a jury (unless the defendant requests otherwise). They also try family law and civil cases such as contract disputes. Superior Courts are the primary trial courts within the New Jersey court system. The Superior Court for Passaic County is located in Paterson:

Passaic County Superior Court

Passaic County Courthouse

77 Hamilton Street, Paterson, NJ 07505

Phone: 973-653-2910

The Appellate Division

Many criminal convictions are appealed for a variety of reasons. The defendant's attorney may believe that certain evidence admitted by the court should not have been allowed in, that the jury selection was improperly conducted, that the judge applied the law incorrectly, or any of a number of other reasons. An appeal will argue that the conviction should be overturned because of one or more of those errors.

The first level of appeal is to the Appellate Division of Superior Court, and then, if applicable, to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Appeals are not a re-trial; instead, the lawyers point out the errors in the trial below and provide reasons why the appellate court should either overturn the conviction or, sometimes, send the case back to the Superior Court for a new trial.

A second – and the highest – level of appeal is to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Here, too, the case is not re-tried, and instead, the court considers whether errors below (whether at the Superior or Appellate Court level) justify overturning the conviction or sending the case back to the Superior Court for another trial.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney for Passaic County, New Jersey

If you've been accused of a crime in Passaic County, New Jersey—no matter how minor the offense—it is important that you choose an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney to help defend you and work to achieve the best outcome for your case. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience defending clients in Passaic County courtrooms. He understands how the courts, the prosecutors, and the judges work, and he will position your defense for the best possible outcome. Don't take chances with your future; hire an attorney with the experience and dedication to provide you with the best chance of success in your case. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or through our contact form today to learn more about how we can help.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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