There is no such thing as a ‘little case’ when you are charged with a criminal offense in NJ, any more than you can be a ‘little bit pregnant’.

There are a number of things that happen automatically when you are charged with committing a crime in NJ. A criminal record is created when you are charged. You will be taken into custody and processed, with your fingerprints and photograph taken. A date will be set for you to appear in Court, and if you do not appear a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If a bench warrant is issued, your driver’s licence will be suspended. And you cannot stop these things from happening.

The only person who can agree to dismiss a criminal complaint, is the prosecutor. Not the person who filed the charge against you, not the police investigating the allegation or arresting you, not even the Judge. Even if the person who is the ‘victim’ says, ‘I want the charges dropped’ to the Judge, that does not get the case dismissed. There may be a way, depending on a number of factors to convince the prosecutor to drop a particular case, but it is not guaranteed. Even if the victim says ‘I will not testify’, that is not an automatic reason for a prosecutor to drop a case; and, the victim can be served with a subpoena that will require them to appear in Court, where the Judge can hold the victim in contempt and lock them up if they refuse to testify. The only way to address this is for you to appear as scheduled and submit to the authority of the Court. It is your choice whether to ‘tough it out’ or get legal assistance from a lawyer, but you must go to Court.

A criminal record is created when you are arrested, and it remains even if a case is dismissed. The only way to eliminate the record, is to apply for an expungement (a specific type of action that must be filed at the County Superior Court) and if you are eligible under the criteria in the statute, a Judge can grant the clearing of your record. The process will take months (at this writing at least 4-months) if you are eligible and the Court does not schedule a hearing date to take testimony as to your petition. A frequent problem is created in a case where the victim is requesting that the case be dismissed, when a FTA (Failure to Appear) occurs when you do not appear when you are scheduled to be in Court, as that delays the process to resolve the criminal complaint and results in you having this on your record longer. Employers frequently do background checks of employees, and if the charge comes up it can interfere with your ability to keep the job, or a ‘license issued by the State’ that you need to hold that particular type of job. The only way to get to this stage of the proceedings is to address the charge and hopefully get a prosecutor to agree to dismiss it.

When you are charged, the complaint will be either on a ‘warrant’ which requires the police to take you into custody, where you will be held until a Judge decides to release you; or, on a ‘summons’ where you will be taken into custody for as long as it takes to process you (including the taking of your fingerprints and photograph) after which you will be released with a notice of when you are to be in Court. If you do not appear in Court as scheduled, a ‘bench warrant’ will be issued for your arrest. The only way to clear either type of a warrant, is to surrender to the police and wait to be seen by the Judge. If a bail has been set, you can often clear the warrant by posting the bail, getting the warrant lifted, and having a new Court date set. Be prepared to have your lawyer tell the Judge why you missed the Court date, as the Judge can decide that it was all your fault and find you guilty of criminal contempt (which can impact when/if you will be eligible for an expungement), and which can remain as a conviction even if the underlying case is dismissed.

And we have not even begun to discuss the fact that your driver’s license can be suspended by the Motor Vehicle Commission because of the bench warrant; or, what the sentencing impact can be (like jail, fines, restitution, community service, etc.) if you are found guilty or plead guilty. Again, there is no such thing as a ‘little case’…not in criminal law.

#criminal #defense #lawyer


The information contained in this blog post is intended as marketing, not advertising, as is more fully stated in the Disclaimer Page of this blog site. This post is strictly intended for general informational purposes only, and DOES NOT constitute legal advice on any legal matter in N.J. or in any other jurisdiction.

No attorney-client relationship is intended, offered or established by this information, even if it is similar in nature to a situation you are facing. Should you be confronted with a criminal prosecution or investigation, you are strongly advised to consult immediately with an experienced criminal defense lawyer licensed in the State or jurisdiction where the charges are filed, with whom you will have an attorney-client relationship, and can obtain legal advice on how to best handle your issues. This direct consultation should be done before you make any decisions in regards to your legal issue.

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