The criminal procedure of New Jersey is not very different from that of other states; the basic steps used for processing adult criminals are almost the same across the country. However, understanding the legal intricacies that surround arrests, the issue of active warrants from New Jersey and the eventual legal procedure used to try the accused can help you to effectively wade through the judicial system of the state.
Of arrest warrants and detentions
A police officer can make arrests without NJ outstanding warrants if he/she has reason to believe that a felony has been committed and that there is probable cause to believe that a certain individual was responsible for commissioning this criminal act. However, if the criminal incident in question is a misdemeanor, the officer has to be a witness to the crime to detain the accused without an active warrant.
When arrest warrants are required, these are sought from the local courts by filing an affidavit which ought to bring out probable cause clearly. Regardless of whether arrests are made with or without warrants, the detainee is covered by the Miranda rights. Pursuant to this, the accused is supposed to be warned that his actions and words will be held against him in the court of law hence as such the police cannot use pressure tactics to force the suspect into confessing.
Booked and taken to court
The booking takes place after the arrest; the accused is taken to the local police station where he is fingerprinted and photographed for records. All personal belongings are confiscated including any form of personal identification being carried by the accused which will be used to positively identify him. In NJ, it is the norm to also conduct a medical screening at this point.
The first appearance of the detainee in court is usually held within 24 hours of being arrested and this session is often coupled with the arraignment. During the latter, the rights of the defendant are explained to him along with the charges being filed against him. Bail petition will also be considered at this time.
Plea bargains and grand jury indictment
The majority of the criminal cases are sorted through plea bargains which help to save the state’s judicial resources. A plea arrangement is a compromise between the defense and the prosecution under which the defendant agrees to plead guilty and the prosecution does its bit by reducing the charges. If a consensus cannot be reached between the two sides, the matter goes to trial.
A grand jury indictment may be held before things get to the stage of the plea bargain or even before the case goes to trial. This is a session in which a jury takes the call on whether the evidence is enough to support the charges framed against the accused. If the proof is sufficient, the jurors return the indictment and an arrest warrant is issued for the detention of the accused if he is not already being held in custody.
The trial and verdict
The defense can choose whether the case will be heard by the jury or the judge. If the matter involves jurors, the judge will act as the controlling authority in the courtroom but he will not actually participate in deciding on the guilt of the accused. In NJ, all defendants are to be brought to trial within 180 days.
Through these three months, all the evidence is presented before the court and it is carefully dissected by the opposing team. The closing arguments are made at the end of the trial at which point the jury members are sent into a room to decide on the case. Their decision has to be unanimous for the verdict to be valid. If the jurors find the defendant guilty, the judge sentences the accused.