Criminal Defense Frequently Asked Questions

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you surely have a lot of questions. Below, New Jersey criminal defense attorney John Tierney answers some commonly asked questions. If you need legal representation immediately, or have questions about your specific case, contact us today for a free consultation.

How do I know if I need a criminal defense attorney?

If you have been arrested or if you have been “requested” to speak with a police officer about a potential charge, you should contact us immediately and should not speak with the police without counsel present. Also, some traffic infractions carry significant penalties, potential suspension of your license, and even potential jail time. Given the power of the police and their available tools, it is best to err on the side of caution and speak with defense counsel.

Can I say “no” to a police search?

Police can ask if you “consent” to a search of a vehicle, your home, and other interior areas. Depending upon your state caselaw, there are vast disparities concerning what the police can request and under what circumstances. Some require probable cause to search or to seek consent. Some require a written consent form to be executed. You do not have to consent to a search and can request the police obtain a warrant before a search is conducted. However, if a police officer begins a search of your person, home, or vehicle, you cannot stop it, resist, or obstruct the process. That is dangerous and will lead to additional charges. Your remedy for a bad search is through counsel, in court.

How will the judge determine my sentence in New Jersey if I’m convicted of a crime?

A “crime” in New Jersey is an indictable offense, similar to what is termed a felony in other states. Different levels of crimes require a different process. Different levels of crimes usually require a probation or pre-sentence report, application of your prior conviction history to the present conviction and required penalties under the specific statutes of which you are convicted. Aggravating and mitigating factors are usually also considered.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in New Jersey? 

A felony is technically called an indictable offense or crime in New Jersey. Typically, these are considered crimes for which a sentence of a year or more in prison up to the death penalty is possible. 4th degree crimes have lesser sentences than 3rd, 2nd, 1st etc. A misdemeanor is equivalent to a disorderly person offense or petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. Typically, these offenses carry fines, community service, probation, restitution to alleged victims, or potentially modest jail time for more serious offenses and/or repeat offenders.

Should I represent myself in a criminal case?

It is not advisable. You would be facing professional police officers and prosecutors with all the power of the State behind them and no experience or training. Further, you may be unaware of likely outcomes and also the possible penalties for conviction. Lastly, you may mistakenly behave in a way that upsets the Judge or jury.