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I’m Facing New Jersey Criminal Charges – What Happens Next?

Facing criminal charges can be a confusing and frightening experience. Getting charged with a crime is just the beginning, and you may be worried about what will happen next. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you have rights, including the right to an attorney. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you through the entire criminal process from start to finish.

If you or someone you care about is facing any type of criminal charge in New Jersey, it is crucial to obtain skilled legal representation. Contact the experienced attorneys at Sarofiem & Antoun, LLC today to discuss how we can help you defend your rights and navigate the criminal justice system.

New Jersey Criminal Process

The criminal process in New Jersey typically begins with a complaint that alleges a person committed some type of crime, which leads to criminal charges and arrest. Where the process ends depends a lot on the charges and the circumstances of the case, but cases can continue until there is a dismissal, a plea, or a trial. Below each step of the New Jersey criminal process is explained.

Complaint, Charges, and Arrest

A criminal case generally begins when a complaint is filed by the police, or even a citizen, alleging that a person committed a crime. This formal complaint leads to criminal charges, which often results in an arrest. Sometimes, the arrest comes first. If police officers see a person commit a crime, or have probable cause a person has committed a crime, officers can arrest that person at the scene. Then the complaint and formal charges will follow.

First Appearance

After a person is charged with a crime, they will be required to make an initial appearance before the court. If the person is arrested and in custody, this appearance should happen within 48 hours. At this first appearance, the judge will:

  • Go over the person’s charges
  • Read the person their rights
  • Determine whether the person should remain in custody until trial or be released

When determining whether a person should stay in custody until their trial the judge will look at several factors including the crime committed, the person’s criminal history, and their connections to the community. In some cases, the person is released on their own recognizance, meaning they can leave but are responsible for appearing at later hearings. In other cases, bail is set. If a person can pay their bail, they can be released while awaiting trial. If the bail cannot be paid, they must remain in custody.

Pre-Indictment Options

The next step in the criminal process involves looking over the case and deciding the next steps. The prosecutor will take time to look over the case and decide if they want to move forward with the prosecution. At this point, several different things can occur:

  • Dismissal: The case can be dismissed and charges dropped if there is not enough evidence to support moving forward.
  • Municipal Remand: When the charges are not serious, and can be handled by a municipal court, the court can send the case to them. In this situation, the crime is considered a disorderly person offense (misdemeanor) and is handled by the municipal prosecutor.
  • Plea Bargaining: At this point in the case, the prosecutor and defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain for the defendant. Plea bargains usually involve the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser offense or lesser sentence. If the defendant accepts a plea, the process ends here and the defendant is sentenced.
  • Pretrial Intervention: In some cases, there are options to avoid prosecution by participating in a diversion program. These programs usually involve court supervision for a certain amount of time and may include requirements such as a supervised living arrangement, the court ordered counseling, and participation in drug or addiction recovery programs. This is typically for first-time offenders and must be approved by the prosecutor and judge.

Grand Jury and Indictment

If the case moves forward, the next step is the grand jury and indictment process. At this point, the prosecutor brings together a group of citizens to make up the grand jury. The prosecutor presents evidence of the charges to the grand jury. The grand jury then decides whether there is enough evidence to formally charge a defendant and move forward with the case. If the grand jury decides there is enough evidence, this does not mean that the defendant is guilty, but just that the case moves forward. If the grand jury decides there is not enough evidence to indict, the charges are dismissed.


After a grand jury indictment moving the case forward, the defendant has an arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant is formally notified of their charges. The defendant can choose to move forward toward a trial, or choose to enter a guilty plea. If they enter a guilty plea, sentencing follows a few weeks later.

Pre-trial Conference/Negotiation

After the arraignment, there is another opportunity for further pre-trial conferencing and negotiation. The prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney discuss the case and may at this point negotiate a plea bargain. The defendant has another opportunity to plead guilty or instead move forward to trial.


If the case has not been resolved previously, the next step is going to trial. At the trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of his charges. With the help of a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney, the defendant can present a defense to the prosecutor’s claims. After the prosecutor and defense present their sides, the jury makes a decision. The defendant is found guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant’s case ends. If the defendant is found guilty, the final steps of the criminal process include sentencing or post-trial appeals.

Get Help with Your New Jersey Criminal Charges Today

The criminal process can be complicated and the idea of facing charges on your own can feel totally overwhelming. However, it is important to remember that if you are charged with a crime you have a right to an attorney from the very start—you don’t have to tackle any part of the potentially long process on your own.

The skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sarofiem & Antoun, LLC can help you navigate your criminal case from the moment of your arrest or charges. They will be by your side every step of the way and diligently work to provide a defense that leads to the best possible outcome in your case. If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, reach out to our office today by calling (201) 792-3333. We are available 24/7 by phone or text to discuss your case during a free, totally confidential consultation!

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