New Jersey First-Time Offenders

The Problem. First-time offenders in any state face frightening problems. An arrest can be a harrowing experience, especially when followed by even a brief period of incarceration--so severely stressful as to disable the first-time offender's senses and reason. Indeed, a recent U.S. Department of Justice study documents an alarming rate of jail suicides, about a quarter of which occur in the first twenty-four hours and half of which occur over the first few jail days. First-time offenders, wholly unfamiliar with criminal procedures, are especially vulnerable. The same study cites these factors as a cause for severe and mentally disabling stress:

  • fear of the unknown;
  • distrust of the authoritarian procedures;
  • perceived lack of control over the future;
  • isolation from family and significant others;
  • the shame of arrest and incarceration; and
  • perceived dehumanizing events.

Conviction's Consequences. A first-time offender's disabling fear grows greater when considering the possible consequences of a criminal conviction. New Jersey's last execution of a convicted criminal occurred in 1963. Yet when New Jersey formally abolished the death penalty in 2007, it did so in favor of prison sentences of life without parole. Even a short period of imprisonment in a county jail can have devastating effects on children and their custody and confidence, jobs, and career, including professional licenses, and reputation, and family and business relationships. A criminal conviction can have profound effects on well-being even without imprisonment, and instead only fines, restitution, and community service. A criminal record can place all the same things--jobs, careers, licenses, reputation, and relationships--at risk. The long-term costs of conviction can dwarf the short-term costs of having skilled representation to defeat or reduce the charges.

Indictable Offenses. Facing a criminal charge in New Jersey for the first time is no less daunting. New Jersey classifies its crimes by the seriousness of each wrong. The New Jersey criminal code refers to the more-serious wrongs as indictable offenses, dividing them into four degrees and assigning their disposition to Superior Court. New Jersey's indictable offenses include:

  • first-degree crimes like murder, rape, and armed robbery, punishable with ten or more years in prison on a conviction that the defendant cannot expunge;
  • second-degree crimes like trafficking and unarmed robbery, punishable with five to ten years in prison on a conviction that the defendant may expunge after an additional ten years of supervision;
  • third-degree crimes like burglary, assault, and theft, punishable with three to five years of imprisonment on a conviction that the defendant may expunge after ten years of supervision; and
  • fourth-degree crimes like certain drug charges and shoplifting, punishable with up to eighteen months of imprisonment on a conviction that the defendant may expunge after ten years.

Lesser Offenses. New Jersey's criminal code refers four classes of less-serious offenses to Municipal Court. While Municipal Court offenses are less serious than the indictable offenses that the Superior Court hears, Municipal Court can still send first-time offenders to jail for extended periods of up to six months. Don't ignore or diminish the potential consequences of these four Municipal Court offense classes:

  • disorderly person offenses like disorderly conduct, trespass, and theft of services, punishable by up to six months in jail, $1,000 fine, and loss of driver's license, with expungement five years after sentence completion;
  • petty disorderly offenses like fighting and harassment, punishable by up to thirty days in jail and $500 fine, with expungement five years after sentence completion;
  • traffic offenses like driving under the influence, excessive speed, and driving on a suspended license, punishable with fines, license points, license suspension, and possible jail time; and
  • ordinance violations like underage drinking, open alcohol container, trash dumping, and excessive noise, punishable with fines and community service, with expungement two years after sentence completion.

Rights. The key is to think and reason clearly about your procedural rights in defense of a first-ever criminal charge, rather than to panic and lose one's head. For more detail, refer to the section below on New Jersey Criminal Procedures and the section on Your Rights in Defense. In brief, though, the constitutional and statutory rights that aggressive trial counsel like New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm helps first-time offenders preserve and deploy to best effect include:

  • the right to counsel;
  • the right to challenge the sufficiency of the prosecutor's evidence;
  • the right to bail and freedom while awaiting further procedures;
  • the right to a fair trial before an unbiased jury of one's own peers;
  • the right to an unbiased judge;
  • the right to a speedy trial;
  • the right to challenge the prosecution's evidence at trial;
  • the right to present one's own witnesses and evidence;
  • the right to a fair hearing on sentence; and
  • the right to appeal unconstitutional or otherwise unjust procedures.

Counsel. The most critical step for any first-time offender is to retain skilled and experienced counsel like New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm. Having aggressive counsel in your corner can make all the difference in the outcome for a first-time offender. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped innumerable first-time offenders get the charges reduced or dismissed, saving families, jobs, careers, reputation, and freedom. Receive your case evaluation from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online now. Refer to the section below on Achieving the Best Outcome.

New Jersey Criminal Procedures

Investigation. For a first offender to make informed decisions with the advice of trustworthy counsel like New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento, the first offender needs, above all, to understand law-enforcement and court procedures. In New Jersey, as elsewhere, those procedures begin with a law-enforcement investigation after police observations or victim complaints of crime. Detectives may collect and study crime evidence, interview eyewitnesses, and consult experts. Defense counsel generally plays a limited but still important role in criminal investigations. That role primarily has to do with ensuring the first-time offender's privilege against self-incrimination while seeing that investigators receive exculpatory information. First-time offenders may especially benefit from legal representation during a crime investigation, given their fear and unfamiliarity with investigation-related events.

Complaint. If the investigation produces evidence establishing probable cause that the first-time offender committed the crime, then prosecutors may prepare a complaint to which the investigating officer or crime victim attests. New Jersey makes the county prosecutor the chief law-enforcement officer pursuing criminal proceedings. The prosecutor files complaints for lesser offenses in the Municipal Court. More-serious indictable offenses in the Superior Court require either that the judge sign an arrest warrant or that the prosecutor convene a grand jury to determine if the prosecutor has evidence for an indictment. Defense counsel again plays a limited but important role in the complaint stage, ensuring that the first-time offender avoids self-incrimination, understands the process, and prepares for any charge.

Grand Jury. A New Jersey grand jury is a panel of twenty-three adult citizens drawn from a voter-registration, driver's license, and tax-rolls cross-section of the community to hear the prosecutor's evidence of the crime. Grand juries do not decide guilt. They only determine whether the prosecutor's evidence shows that the defendant may have committed the charged crime or a lesser crime. Because grand juries are a method for investigating rather than convicting crime, grand-jury proceedings are secret rather than public. Neither the defendant nor defense counsel attends a grand-jury proceeding. The defendant may or may not even know of the proceeding until after it ends with a bill for indictment, no bill, or a bill for reduced charges. Defense counsel thus once again plays a limited role, ensuring the offender avoids self-incrimination while preparing for any charge. Because New Jersey uses a grand-jury system for indictments, defendants have only limited opportunities in non-grand-jury cases to obtain a preliminary hearing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence.

Arrest. The next stage of a New Jersey criminal proceeding often involves the first-time offender's arrest for appearance in Superior Court. Arrest begins with law-enforcement officers following the court's warrant to take the charged defendant into custody. Officers search the defendant upon arrest and transport the defendant to the police station for booking, meaning taking information and mug-shot photographs. Defendants are often not aware of a pending warrant for arrest. Police may prefer to keep it that way to ensure the defendant remains available. Yet if the defendant is aware of a pending charge and warrant, then defense counsel can sometimes play a limited role ensuring that the defendant submits to arrest promptly, in a way that minimizes embarrassment, delay, and disruption. Lesser offenses may instead involve a summons to appear in Municipal Court.

Appearance. When charges result in arrest rather than summons, officers hold the first-time offender in the county jail for a brief period before the defendant appears in court for a bail hearing. In 2017, New Jersey enacted significant reforms to its appearance and bail system, one of which limited that brief period of incarceration to no more than forty-eight hours. Arrests made on the weekend may delay the offender's court appearance until Monday morning, nearer the full forty-eight hours. By contrast, arrests made on a weekday morning may result in a same-day appearance, enabling the defendant to avoid even a single night in jail. That possibility of avoiding an overnight in jail is one of the potential benefits of having defense counsel assist with prompt submission for arrest.

Bail. New Jersey's recent law reforms also affected the cases in which the courts may impose bail. The reforms eliminated bail for most charges. Bail involves posting money or other property for security that the defendant will return to court for further proceedings on the criminal charge rather than flee out of reach of law-enforcement officials. Bail, though, tends to strongly favor defendants who have the financial means to post security. The rich go free while the poor languish in jail. New Jersey's 2017 reforms addressed that inequity, substituting a risk-based system for the prior financial security. Defense counsel can provide significant advocacy and assistance both in the more-serious cases involving bail and in cases in which the court uses the newer risk-based evaluation. Getting out of jail while awaiting further proceedings on the charges is not merely a substantial relief but can also be critical to the offender's ability to assist in preparing a defense to the charges.

Formal Arraignment. In New Jersey, formal arraignment must occur within fourteen days of indictment. Formal arraignment is the stage at which the defendant appears before the judge to hear the charges and rights associated with the charges. The right to a lawyer of one's own choosing is the critical right of which the court informs the defendant. Indigent defendants who make a showing of their inability to afford counsel will get an assigned public defender if the charges implicate potential jail time. Yet even indigent defendants may, with the financial help of family members or friends, retain their own private counsel. If you can afford your own experienced and trustworthy criminal-defense lawyer, with or without financial assistance from others, then retain a skilled lawyer from the Lento Law Firm.

Plea. Another significant event that generally occurs at the defendant's formal arraignment is the entry of a plea. Driven by fear, shame, and confusion, first-time offenders can be especially reluctant to enter any plea other than guilty. Doing so is very often an egregious mistake that frivolously casts away significant, even assured, opportunities to avoid conviction or to reduce conviction charges. To suggest that prosecutors, judges, police officers, and court staff pressure first-time offenders into unwise guilty pleas without the advice and assistance of skilled defense counsel would be to disrespect the commitments of career public servants. But the criminal justice system depends on large numbers and percentages of defendants giving up their rights and admitting guilt, even when they need not and should not do so. Get your own representation from New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento.

Charge Review. New Jersey prosecutors have the discretion to pursue, continue, reduce, or drop charges. To manage their busy caseloads, they continually review charges throughout proceedings. Indeed, New Jersey's Criminal Practice Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts tracks caseloads and dispositions to ensure that prosecutors manage caseloads expeditiously. Here is where aggressive criminal-defense counsel can make an enormous difference to a first offender's outcome, especially when a defense lawyer like attorney Joseph D. Lento has the prosecutor's respect for the skill and trustworthiness of their advocacy. Effective plea bargaining can also require knowing what the prosecutors will offer in certain types of cases--both how and when to get the best bargain.

Pretrial Intervention. Diversion to outside-of-court procedures is another significant opportunity that occurs at a formal arraignment. New Jersey offers a Pretrial Intervention Program, especially for first-time offenders whose personal problems, like addiction or behavioral issues, contributed to the offense. The PTI program offers rehabilitative services that address and solve, rather than punish, those personal problems. Completing diversion terms, and documenting their completion, results in dismissal of the charges and expungement of the charge records. Defense counsel experienced in diversion procedures, like New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento, can greatly assist in recommending and negotiating appropriate diversion terms, assisting the first-time offender with obtaining and completing treatment, and documenting completion. Failure to complete program terms results in the reinstatement of the charges.

Qualifying for Diversion. The rules for qualifying for PTI are complex, too many to summarize here. The defendant must apply by completing a form disclosing past conviction or diversion, current charges, and other information. If the offense for which the defendant seeks diversion includes potential jail time, then the defendant must include a personal statement with the application. Defense counsel can be particularly helpful in preparing that statement to include such positive indicators as the applicant's:

  • goals, values, and commitments;
  • ability to recognize, reflect, and reform;
  • social-support system and other resources;
  • skills, affinities, ambitions, and interests;
  • personal experiences and achievements; and
  • ability to contribute to society on program completion.

Motion to Suppress. If a first-time offender's charge depends on evidence that the police obtained illegally, in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights, then skilled criminal-defense counsel may file a motion to suppress, advocating for the evidence's exclusion at trial. Defense counsel's winning a motion to suppress often means that the prosecutor will abandon the case for lack of critical evidence. Motions to suppress can thus be like mini-trials, with the charge's outcome riding on the judge's decision on the motion. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento files and wins motions to suppress, using aggressive advocacy and the fine knowledge of constitutional law that such motions require.

Pretrial Conference. New Jersey's Superior Courts also hold periodic disposition or status conferences and pretrial conferences. These conferences bring together the judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer to discuss and resolve important case issues. While litigation may seem secretive, criminal procedures are instead largely about avoiding surprise to help the opposing sides reach a compromise and agreement. Indeed, even before the early formal arraignment, the prosecution must share with the defendant's lawyer the evidence on which the prosecutor relies for the charge so that the defendant gets the benefit of the lawyer's evaluation and counsel. While pretrial conferences can address evidentiary and other issues, they also serve as an opportunity for defense counsel to advocate for dismissal, diversion, or plea agreements on reduced charges.

Trial. While first-time offenders and other defendants in criminal cases have long had the right to a speedy trial before a jury of one's peers, New Jersey's 2017 reforms clarified certain speedy-trial deadlines. Criminal prosecutions must not drag on. Defense counsel can help ensure that the court proceeds with trial whether the prosecutor is ready or not, which forms a key strategy in negotiating a compromise plea bargain. A twelve-member jury hears charges that proceed to trial, unless both the prosecutor and defendant waive a jury in favor of the trial judge deciding guilt--a key decision on which a defendant definitely needs experienced counsel. The trial itself, with opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, the introduction of exhibits, and closing arguments, requires skilled advocacy from experienced counsel.

Sentencing. All is not lost when a criminal charge results in a conviction. While judges generally sentence within New Jersey sentencing guidelines limiting their discretion, New Jersey's sentencing guidelines and procedures provide key opportunities for defense counsel like attorney Joseph D. Lento to advocate skillfully for lenient terms. Sentencing begins with a presentence investigation and report on which the sentencing judge relies for decision. Getting complete and accurate information to the investigator can make all the difference in sentence recommendations. Defense counsel can help a first-time offender review, comment on, correct an inaccurate or incomplete presentence report. The sentencing hearing is the next critical step, when the sentencing judge hears recommendations, decides factual and legal disputes over sentencing factors, and determines the sentence. Obviously, skilled legal representation at the sentencing hearing can be critical to achieving the best outcome on New Jersey sentencing issues that may include questions of:

  • plea agreements relating to the terms of sentence;
  • merger preventing punishment more than once for a single crime;
  • aggravating and mitigating factors affecting sentence;
  • presumptions for and against imprisonment;
  • split or suspended sentences permitting completion of other terms;
  • concurrent or consecutive sentence shortening or lengthening terms;
  • jail and gap-time credits shortening jail sentence;
  • restitution to victims of the crime;
  • fines, fees, and costs associated with the proceeding;
  • treatment availability and options;
  • probation or parole eligibility; and
  • registration requirements.

Appeal. Appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, or other post-conviction relief at the trial level, is the last stage of a criminal proceeding, if either side finds factual or legal grounds to challenge the case's outcome. The Appellate Division reviews the trial transcript for errors or irregularities that unfairly influenced the outcome. Appeals and motions for other post-conviction relief require the representation of skilled counsel. Errors or irregularities justifying relief may include things like:

  • admission of irrelevant or unduly prejudicial evidence;
  • exclusion of relevant evidence;
  • violations of evidentiary privileges;
  • prejudicial prosecutor statements or arguments beyond the evidence;
  • errors in the judge's instructions on law to the jury;
  • juror misconduct such as research or scene views;
  • witness or juror tampering; and
  • sentencing errors in applying or diverging from the guidelines.

Your Rights in Defense

New Jersey adopts and implements the above criminal procedures to preserve a first-time offender's constitutional due-process rights. Due process protects the innocent while ensuring fundamentally fair hearings and trials for everyone, including the guilty. Both the U.S. Constitution and New Jersey's state constitution guarantee due-process rights and certain other important rights, such as Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable arrest, search, and seizure. Due-process rights also restrict how law enforcement can obtain and use confessions, compel self-incrimination, and use lineups and other identification procedures. Due process also guarantees a right to counsel and fair trial before an unbiased judge and jury, prohibits double jeopardy and cruel-and-unusual punishment, and requires that prosecutors meet certain burdens of proof and persuasion. The following sections address each of these constitutional protections, including how skilled defense counsel like Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm enforces these rights.

Arrest. The Fourth Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects against unlawful arrest. The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless arrest in a public place only on probable cause that the suspect has committed a crime. If an officer must enter a home or other place where the suspect has a reasonable expectation of privacy, then the officer must have a warrant unless exigent circumstances excuse a warrant or the suspect consents. Warrants must issue only on probable cause that the arresting officer has a reasonable basis for believing that the suspect committed a crime. When skilled defense counsel from the Lento Law Firm challenges the validity of an arrest, the court may suppress a confession and other evidence like fingerprints, blood tests, and DNA gained from an illegal arrest, unless the connection between the illegal arrest and evidence becomes so attenuated as not to taint the evidence.

Search. The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments also guarantee a right against unreasonable government searches, requiring that a court issue a search warrant after a showing of probable cause that the location has evidence of a crime. A search investigates a location as to which the defendant has a reasonable expectation of privacy. An open-fields doctrine holds that a defendant has no reasonable expectation of privacy outside the curtilage, referring to the immediate surroundings and attached structures of a home. Privacy also does not protect evidence within the public purview, such as vehicle exteriors, garbage out for collection, and things visible from the air or public spaces. When skilled defense counsel like attorney Joseph D. Lento moves to suppress, the exclusionary rule requires the court to bar evidence obtained in violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Exceptions to the search-warrant requirement include:

  • consent of one reasonably believed to have access to the premises;
  • authorities may seize evidence in plain view from any lawful location;
  • authorities may search incident to lawful arrest;
  • use of the evidence for impeachment purposes;
  • when lawfully gained evidence attenuates the illegal search;
  • vehicle search for instrumentalities, contraband, or fruits of crime;
  • similar search of boats or other moveable transportation; and
  • administrative searches for compliance with regulations.

Self-Incrimination. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments as interpreted by the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v Arizona guarantee a privilege against self-incrimination. The privilege, applying to interrogation in custody by authorities, requires authorities to read arrestees their so-called Miranda rights. Prosecutors cannot use at trial against a defendant statements made while in custody under interrogation, unless the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily chose to waive those rights. When the Lento Law Firm's skilled defense counsel moves to suppress, the court must exclude statements gained in violation of these Fifth Amendment rights. Miranda rights include the rights to:

  • remain silent;
  • have your attorney present now;
  • have the court appoint an attorney if you cannot afford one;
  • have your attorney present during any questioning; and
  • hear that anything said can and will be used against you in court.

Lineups. An accused's Fourteenth Amendment due-process rights also require police to conduct lineups in ways that are not unduly suggestive. Eyewitness identification is inherently unreliable, especially when authorities taint the identification with a suggestive lineup. When skilled defense counsel like attorney Joseph D. Lento moves to exclude, the court must bar in-court identification based on a constitutionally defective out-of-court lineup unless the witness has an independent source for identification. The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments also grant a defendant the right to counsel at a lineup, meaning that defense counsel may monitor the lineup for unfairness. Some of the ways that police may taint a lineup include:

  • the eyewitness views a one-person showup of only the suspect;
  • the eyewitness views the suspect in lineup before describing the suspect;
  • multiple eyewitnesses view a lineup together, inducing agreement;
  • the officer presenting the lineup subtly signals who the suspect is;
  • the officer urges the eyewitness to consider the suspect;
  • the officer promptly validates impressions identifying the suspect;
  • the officer presents multiple suspects and few fillers in a single lineup;
  • the lineup presents fillers who look unlike the eyewitness description;
  • the lineup presents fillers who look unlike the suspect.

Right to Counsel. The Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments grant various important rights to counsel. The right to counsel extends to felony proceedings, misdemeanor proceedings that result in imprisonment, and juvenile-delinquency hearings. The right to counsel also applies at all critical stages, meaning from custodial interrogations and post-arrest lineups, through arraignment, pretrial proceedings, and trial, to guilty pleas, sentencing, and appeals. The right to counsel includes a right to counsel's effective assistance. On the defendant's post-verdict motion, the court may grant a new trial if finding both deficient performance and that the deficiency induced the conviction, such as failing to object to a charge barred by the statute of limitations.

Fair Trial. The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee an accused in a criminal proceeding rights to a fair trial, including that the trial be speedy and public. If the charges can result in imprisonment for more than six months, then the court must supply an impartial jury from the district of the alleged crime. Speedy trial depends on balancing the length of delay with reasons for the delay, the defendant's assertion of the right, and the prejudice from delay—violation of the speedy-trial right mandates the charge's dismissal. Public trial requires that the court permit the public to attend and observe the trial unless an overriding interest requires closure. Under the Sixth Amendment's confrontation clause, a fair trial also ordinarily requires that the court permit the defendant to confront and cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses. Due process also requires the court to permit the defendant to present the defendant's own testimony and own witnesses, including if necessary, to cross-examine and impeach those witnesses.

Jury Trial. The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee a right of jury trial before an impartial jury in criminal cases in which incarceration is a potential punishment. The court must draw jurors from a representative cross-section of the community without systematically excluding groups in the process. New Jersey courts address the constitutional guarantee of impartial jurors through a jury-questioning process, known as jury voir dire, that poses standard questions to jurors to reveal bias. The court must remove jurors who exhibit bias unless the defendant fails to exercise an available peremptory challenge. A peremptory challenge permits a defendant to remove a juror without showing any cause. New Jersey court rules ordinarily permit a defendant in a criminal case to exercise up to twenty peremptory challenges, with certain exceptions. The prosecution must not use peremptory challenges to exclude jurors based on race or sex. A defendant may require the prosecution to disclose the non-discriminatory reasons for striking jurors, and the court may examine the disclosure for pretext. Courts must guard jurors against the influence of trial publicity.

Guilty Pleas. A defendant in a criminal proceeding has the right to plead not guilty or guilty. A defendant's refusal or inability to plead requires the court to enter a not-guilty plea. The court must not accept a guilty plea until the court confirms on the record in open court that the defendant understands the charge, proceeding, and plea, and has offered the plea voluntarily without threats or promises apart from the plea agreement. When informing the defendant of the charge's nature, the judge must state both any mandatory minimum and maximum penalties. The judge must state the defendant's right to a jury trial and appointed counsel if indigent, and state that a guilty plea results in a conviction without a jury trial. The court must reject a guilty plea that the defendant has not made knowingly and voluntarily. New Jersey court rules also typically require that the court confirm a guilty plea's factual basis.

Double Jeopardy. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' double-jeopardy clause prohibits the government from trying an accused on the same charges twice. The clause prohibits a second prosecution for the same offense after either a conviction or an acquittal. A trial begins for purposes of counting double jeopardy when the judge swears the first witness in a bench trial or swears the jury in a jury trial. The clause also prohibits multiple punishments for the same offense. The test for what constitutes the same offense focuses on the statutory elements. The clause generally bars re-prosecution for both greater and lesser-included offenses sharing the same elements. The clause applies to any prosecution, whether felony or misdemeanor, that may result in death, imprisonment, or fine. The double-jeopardy clause does not prohibit prosecution by separate sovereigns such as the federal and state governments, even if the federal and state charges are substantially the same. The local government may not, though, pursue state charges that the state has already tried because a state and its locales arise under the same sovereign.

Burdens of Proof and Persuasion. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments require that the prosecution prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution proves several elements beyond a reasonable doubt but any single element to a lesser degree, then the jury must acquit the defendant. Courts should also instruct that the law presumes the defendant innocent until proven guilty. Skilled trial counsel like New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento advocates these instructions to the jury in a compelling closing argument. The beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard does not apply to fact questions over whether the court should admit the evidence. The court may also apply a lower evidentiary standard to disputes over consent to a search, the right to counsel, waiver of the right to remain silent, and the factual basis for ruling on other rights and objections.

Achieving the Best Outcome

The above discussion shows how critical the legal representation of skilled criminal-defense counsel like attorney Joseph D. Lento can be in defeating or reducing a first offender's criminal charges. At nearly every stage of a criminal prosecution, the reputation, respect, and advocacy of an experienced and trustworthy defense lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome. Yet beyond the specific services that representation from the Lento Law Firm affords--actions like drafting, filing, and advocating a motion to suppress or negotiating a plea agreement--is the enduring value of the professional relationship itself.

Knowing that you have a top-flight lawyer like New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento as a trusted counselor and confidante can give you the courage and confidence to continue with your life down its best path to flourishing. Sometimes, you just need someone standing in your corner. A first criminal charge is invariably one of those rare times when you most need a committed, wise, effective, and influential supporter. Premier criminal-defense lawyers like Joseph D. Lento earn their reputations not just from their trial wins, among first-time offenders for whom they successfully beat the charge, but also from their constancy, consistency, and stability under pressure.

Get Help Now

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped innumerable clients charged with a first-time offense get the charge reduced or dismissed, saving families, careers, reputation, and freedom. For the person charged with a first offense, a delay is the worst enemy. The single best action you can take when facing your first-ever criminal charge is to promptly retain and consult with experienced counsel. Receive your case evaluation now from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.

​​​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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.