The term “indictment” is another word for a formal charge or accusation of a crime. Only certain types of crimes in New Jersey are considered indictable offenses. These are much more serious allegations when compared with disorderly persons charges. Before an indictment, however, a complaint will be issued from a law enforcement officer or a citizen. The complaint will set out the reasons for the charges, including some general factual allegations. If the claim is serious, the complaint will be steered toward indictment procedures, which only occur in Superior Court. In other words, if you are charged with an indictable crime in Morris County, your case will proceed per the indictment process in the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, NJ. Here is a basic outline of the steps involved when you are facing indictable (felony) criminal charges in New Jersey.
Facing an Indictment in Morris County, New Jersey
The First Appearance
Regardless of whether the charge is considered an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense, you will first be required to appear in court before a judge, either in municipal court (for disorderly persons offenses) or Superior Court (for indictable offenses). If you have been charged with an indictable crime and are being held in jail, the appearance occurs within 48 hours of being remitted to county jail. Your first appearance for indictable charges is known as a detention hearing, at which time a judge will consider whether you can be released or will be required to be detained while you wait for your trial.
Once the complaint has been filed and you have been through the first appearance, the prosecutor will decide whether he or she will pursue the case any further at the Superior Court level. This process requires looking at the evidence that they have and determining whether the information they have gathered is enough to find that a crime took place. If the evidence is insufficient, the case will either be “downgraded” to a disorderly persons offense and remanded (sent down) to Municipal Court, or it will be dismissed. There are other options to divert a case to avoid an indictment as well.
The Indictment Process in New Jersey
If a case needs to move forward through the indictment process, then the prosecutor will present the case to the grand jury. A grand jury is made up of a panel of citizens. These citizens will determine if the evidence that a prosecutor has is enough to formally charge the defendant and require him or her to respond to the charges. If a majority of the panel of 23 people find that there is enough evidence, then a “true bill” will trigger additional proceedings in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court. If there is not enough evidence, then the grand jury will dismiss the charges outright. If the charges are dismissed, the defendant may never have to appear in court following the first appearance. However, the prosecutor can also choose to downgrade the charge to a disorderly persons offense at that time as well.
It is important to note that the defendant is not involved in the indictment process. Instead, the prosecutor is the only attorney or individual who can present evidence and information. It is also held in private, and the proceedings are kept from the defendant in their entirety.
Defense for Indictment in Morris County, NJ
An indictment does not mean that a person is guilty of a crime—it is not a conviction. Instead, it is just the first step in the process. The standards are lower to indict than they are to convict. Many more cases will go through an indictment than those that ultimately result in the defendant being convicted. Even if you have already been indicted, you still have options to present a compelling defense—and you should! Our Morris County indictment defense attorneys can help. Learn more by contacting our team today.