Being charged with a crime is scary. You probably have many questions about what will happen next with your case, what the possible consequences of a conviction are, what rights you have, and what the best way is to move your case forward with the least amount of disruption to your life. A New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help can answer your questions and guide you through the intimidating world that is our legal system.
Do I Need an Attorney?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that because the prosecution has the full force of the legal system—attorneys, law enforcement, investigators, and others—as well as nearly unlimited financial resources behind it, you need someone on your side who can push back. You need an experienced attorney who can stand firm in negotiations with the District or City Attorney, who has expert knowledge of the law, and who is willing to do all that is necessary to see that your constitutional rights are preserved and that you receive the due process to which you are entitled, all while achieving the best possible outcome in your case.
What a Defense Attorney Can Do For You
Every case is different and requires a unique legal analysis. Depending on the facts of your case and the severity of the charges against you, your attorney might do some or all of the following.
If you have been arrested, you will appear before a judge who will set bond for you on your case. This is simply an amount of money you must pay to be released from jail and is intended to ensure that you appear at future court appearances. If the monetary amount is something you can afford, you can simply pay the cash and be released. Often, though, a bond is set at a higher amount than the arrested person can afford to pay and the person must either obtain the services of a bail bondsman who will provide the bond for him, or remain in custody until his case is resolved.
Another type of bond is a personal recognizance bond. If granted this type of bond, you will be released from custody essentially on your promise to return to court.
A favorable bond decision can be extremely impactful to your life. Being released from custody allows you to maintain employment, care for children, and meet financial obligations while your case makes its way through the system.
An experienced attorney knows the types of issues to bring before a judge to receive the lowest bond possible. Of course, every case is different and courts look to a variety of factors in making bond decisions, but your attorney should be aware of the circumstances in your life he can present to a judge which will be looked upon favorably.
Negotiate With the Prosecution
Chances are good that at some point shortly after you have been arrested or charged, a District Attorney will approach and attempt to negotiate a plea bargain—an agreement whereby you will plead guilty to a charge (maybe one of many, maybe a lesser charge than was originally filed against you), accept a conviction and subsequent criminal record, and then attempt to move on with your life.
While it might seem like the easiest route at the time, convictions may have long-lasting consequences for your life, and if the charges are serious enough, affect your ability to find gainful employment, secure stable housing, or even pursue higher education. They can also have extreme immigration consequences.
Don’t make this decision alone. A plea deal really might be the best outcome for your particular situation. A defense attorney can look at the prosecution’s offer, advise you of the potential consequences, and break down the offer into plain English that is easy for you to understand. With the assistance of a competent attorney, you will be able to make an educated decision about any plea deal.
An experienced attorney may also be able to negotiate with the prosecution for a better offer than what you were originally offered. Knowledge of the law and other potential charging options can allow a defense attorney to receive a more favorable offer than what you would be able to on your own.
Take Your Case to Trial, if Necessary
If you decide not to accept a plea deal from the prosecution (this is always your choice and yours alone to make), your case will proceed to a jury trial. Courtroom litigation requires skills that not every attorney possesses. It requires an ability to select jurors and speak to them in a way they will understand—jury trials are part legal maneuvering and part storytelling. A good litigator needs to understand how to treat witnesses on the stand; for example, when to push aggressively, and when to back off. And your attorney should have a thorough understanding of the rules of evidence and criminal procedure to ensure that the prosecution is playing by the rules.
Of course, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into conducting a jury trial, including investigations, witness preparation, and evidence review. It may also be appropriate for your attorney to file various motions (requests for the judge to rule on an issue before trial) and the court may hold hearings on those motions.
Litigation is complex and you will want to make sure you choose an attorney who has stood in a courtroom before a jury and argued not just any case, but cases similar to yours.
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away
Retain an attorney as soon as possible after you are arrested or made aware of the charges against you. You have a constitutional right to have an attorney present with you at all critical stages of your case.
Matthew Portella has helped the accused in New Jersey since 1995 and specializes in state and municipal crimes and traffic offenses (including driving while intoxicated and DUI charges), as well as domestic violence, weapons charges, and probation violations.
In addition to handling cases that are in the adjudication stage, Mr. Portella also specializes in the expungement of criminal records to allow people to move on from their past and lead productive lives, free from the burden of their past mistakes.
Mr. Portella brings the power of over 25 years serving the people of New Jersey, his compassion, and his outstanding knowledge of the law to every case he takes. While no two cases are alike and no attorney can guarantee a particular result in your case, Mr. Portella can guarantee committed legal representation and a passionate advocacy for your rights. Contact him online or at (856) 310-9800 today for a consultation and case evaluation. We have an office in Haddonfield, from which we serve all of South Jersey, including Camden and Camden County.