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What are the various stages in New Jersey's criminal process?

Although an arrest can be intimidating, it’s important for anyone facing this situation to remember that there is a criminal procedure that must be followed. Said another way, there are multiple steps in the criminal process in New Jersey, and a favorable outcome may be possible at each juncture. 

First and foremost, our criminal law office recommends that a suspect utilize his or her right to an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. An attorney can review the evidence utilized by law enforcement officials and present available defenses, starting with the initial arrest. To make a warrantless arrest, a police officer generally must have probable cause to believe that a crime is occurring or recently occurred. 

While making the arrest, a law enforcement official is also required to follow certain procedures, the most familiar probably being the Miranda warning. As readers may have learned from television or popular culture, a suspect’s Miranda rights include the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination, as well as the right to an attorney. If an officer fails to tell an arrested suspect of those rights, an attorney can request the court to deem any statements made during that arrest as inadmissible at trial.

When a complaint is issued, an accused’s status becomes that of a criminal defendant who must respond to the allegations against him or her in a court of law. The court will issue a summons to appear, often in conjunction with an arraignment. The issue of bail must also be addressed, generally within 12 hours of the complaint’s issuance. In next week’s post, we’ll continue with our overview of New Jersey criminal procedure and the strategic contributions a criminal defense attorney can make at each stage.

Source: FindLaw, “New Jersey Criminal Laws,” copyright 2015, Thomson Reuters

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