1) When should I hire an attorney? You should hire an attorney as soon as you have been arrested or as soon as you believe you may be the subject of a criminal investigation to ensure your Constitutional rights and potential defenses are not jeopardized.
2) What should I do if the police place me under arrest? Do not try to run or resist arrest. The police do not react kindly to these types of actions. After you have been placed under arrest the police are required to provide you certain warnings, commonly referred to as your Miranda rights, before asking you any questions. These warnings include: You have a right to remain silent; Anything you say may be used against you; You have the right to an attorney during any questioning; and If you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed for you. It is important to understand that is up to you whether you wish to waive these rights and speak to the police after you have been placed under arrest. It is equally as important to understand that the police cannot do anything to you if you exercise your right to remain silent. Generally, it is a good idea to consult with your attorney before giving the police a statement once you have been arrested.
3) When do I tell my story? It is critical that you tell your story to your attorney immediately. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, it is important to share your story while it is fresh in your mind. Over time we tend to forget important details. Second, your story is critical in analyzing the prosecutions’ case and preparing your defense. With this in mind, it is equally as important that you do not tell your story to anyone other than your attorney. Only communications with your attorney are privileged and cannot be used against you.
4) How do the police obtain a search warrant? The police obtain search warrants by convincing a judge that they have “probable cause” to believe criminal activity is occurring at the place they want to search or that evidence of a crime may be found at the location. Normally, the police provide the judge with the information they want to rely on in the form of written statements under oath that are referred to as “affidavits.” These affidavits may include the police officer’s own observations, those of a private citizen or those of a confidential informant. If the judge believes the information presented is trust worthy and demonstrates “probable cause” the judge will issue a warrant.
5) What can police search for and seize once a warrant is issued? Generally, the police are only permitted to search the place described in the warrant. They are permitted to seize any of the property described in the warrant. However, if the police come across evidence of crime that is not listed in the warrant they can normally legally seize those items too. It is important to remember that no two search warrant cases are alike. It is critical that an attorney analyzes the search warrant and the method the police executed the warrant to determine whether any Constitutional provisions were broken. The law is very strict on what the police can and cannot do when executing a warrant.
6) What is an Indictment? An Indictment is a charging document that is issued by a Grand Jury after they have reviewed the prosecution’s case and determined that there is sufficient evidence on which the prosecution can proceed. The Indictment contains the name of the individual or individuals that have been charged, the date of the alleged incident and a legal description of each charge the prosecution is alleging. It is important to remember that an Indictment is ONLY a charging document. An Indictment does not mean that you are guilty of anything. Rather, an Indictment only demonstrates that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to proceed with their case.
7) Is a Disorderly Persons offense a crime in New Jersey? No. In New Jersey a Disorderly Persons offense is not a crime. Rather, it is considered “quasi-criminal” in nature. Disorderly Persons offenses are generally prosecuted in one of New Jersey’s 500+ Municipal Courts. Unlike the Superior Courts, a defendant in Municipal Court does not have a right to a jury trial. In Municipal Court a judge tries the case from start to finish.
8) Should I hire a Criminal Defense Attorney before seeking help from a Bail Bondsman? After a friend or loved one has been arrested panic usually sets in. Most people’s first thought is to get the person out of jail and back home. In order to achieve this many people seek the services of a Bail Bondsman to post the necessary bond immediately. Although this is a logical response, seeking the advice of an experienced attorney before immediately posting a bond can save you money. Generally, a judge who has very little knowledge of the case sets an individual’s initial bail shortly after they have been arrested. Historically, initial bails are very high. Once an attorney has been retained he can speak to the prosecution and the court about the severity of the charges, strength and weaknesses of the case and about the individual who was arrested personally in an effort to have the bail lowered to a more appropriate level. Once the initial bond has been posted you lose your ability to argue for a lower bail and corresponding bond.