Someone Pressed Charges in Morris County NJ?

When we hear about someone pressing charges against another who committed a crime, typically in movies or on television shows, we usually think of a person going to the police department or calling the police to a site and filing a complaint or registering a report. Typically, the police do take a report or investigate a crime and file a criminal complaint accusing someone of a crime or crimes, but either the police or the victim can file a criminal complaint. Then, it is the city, state or federal prosecuting attorneys who ultimately decide if a case goes forward or is dismissed.

What does it mean when a person presses charges in New Jersey?

Pressing charges against someone means making a formal accusation, which is decided in a court of law. It may start with an arrest at a crime scene if the police have probable cause to arrest someone for a crime, meaning evidence exists that a crime occurred and that the defendant committed the crime. Probable cause to arrest must be based on sufficient evidence, such as medical reports showing the victim’s injuries or police reports documenting property destruction, any video or audio evidence of the crime, or witness testimony that support the victim’s facts of the crime. A criminal complaint may be filed by the police or victim after arrest. Alternatively, the arrest may follow the filing of a criminal complaint when an arrest warrant is issued from the court.

Where does a case go when charges are filed in NJ?

Either way, the criminal complaint eventually lands in the municipal court or the county prosecutor’s office, depending on the nature of the crime and the degree of the charge or charges in question. If the defendant is charged with a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense, these cases are sent to municipal court, where municipal prosecutors there handle the case and a judge, not a jury, decides the case. The sentence maximum is 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Conversely, indictable felony charges in the first through fourth degree are sent to the prosecutor’s office for review and decision whether to plea bargain, dismiss or proceed to trial based on the evidence, severity of the crime, and the defendant’s prior record. They may decide the case should be dismissed, sent to the municipal court for disposition or prosecuted in superior court. A case may be dismissed for minor offenses committed by an accused with no prior involvement with the criminal justice system. Charges reduced to disorderly persons offenses are remanded to the the lower court, which  in criminal cases is the municipality’s court where the charges were initially filed.

If the case does go forward, a warrant is prepared by the police and signed by a judge, for the police to arrest the suspect and bring them before the court. For lesser crimes, suspects are summoned to municipal court on a specific date to appear before the judge. At their first appearance in court, the judge reads the defendant the charges and for indictable cases requiring a bail hearing, the judge decides whether to release the defendant or keep them incarcerated pending the next court hearing.

What if the state files charges in Superior Court?

In superior court, the prosecutor may first offer a plea bargain to the defendant or present the case evidence to a grand jury for review. After considering the evidence, the grand jury decides either sufficient evidence exists to proceed with the criminal action or insufficient evidence exists to go forward. If the grand jury concludes the case should not proceed, the case is dismissed as a no bill case, meaning there is insufficient evidence to indict the accused of a crime.

If indicted, the defendant is arraigned where they plead guilty or not guilty in front of the judge. A guilty plea triggers a sentencing date for the next hearing. A not-guilty plea sets off a series of future court dates, including a pre-trial and trial date. Before then, the defendant may apply to the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) to have the charges cleared from their record after completing the program. PTI is a rehabilitation option for those with existing clean criminal records, who have committed certain crimes. If admitted, the case basically ends with a dismissal, unless the defendant fails to complete the program, which would cause the case to be set for trial. At trial, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. Of note: either the defendant or state may appeal the verdict.

What is the Victim’s Role when Pressing Charges in New Jersey?

The role of a crime victim is to not only set the wheels in motion by calling the police, filing a police report, and filing a criminal complaint, but they may also be to provide testimony at trial. They may have some say in plea agreements or at trial to assist the prosecutor. As to pressing charges, a victim may want the perpetrator to be prosecuted but ultimately, it is up to the prosecutor to evaluate the evidence and the circumstances to see whether guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Likewise, if a victim does not want the defendant to be prosecuted, a prosecutor may still prosecute the defendant against the victim’s wishes and without the victim’s cooperation. After all, the criminal complaint is filed against the defendant in the name of the state, not the victim.

Can a Lawyer Help with my Case if Someone Files Charges against me in Morristown NJ?

Pressing charges embroils both the victim and the accused in the criminal justice system. Neither party may have ultimate control over the case proceedings. The prosecutor may have reasons for prosecuting or not prosecuting a case that do not seem just or fair. Whether you are the victim or the defendant in a criminal investigation or action, you have rights that a qualified criminal defense attorney can protect while advancing your interests in a criminal proceeding from beginning to end. Find the right advocate for your needs. Contact us now to speak with a lawyer who can advise and assist you. Consultations are free of charge.

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