The criminal process may seem overwhelming at first, but it is really just a series of steps that are laid out by the state in order to determine whether someone is innocent or guilty. If you were charged with a crime in New Jersey, you should familiarize yourself with the steps of the criminal process in order to be better prepared for what comes next. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the indictment process and how it can affect you. But first, here’s a quick look at each step of the entire criminal process:
The Steps of the Criminal Process in New Jersey
- First Appearance
- Right to Counsel
- Substance Abuse Evaluations
- Pre-Indictment Events
- Plea Bargains
- Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)
- The Grand Jury
The Indictment Process
- The Pre-Arraignment Conference and Arraignment
- The Status and Pretrial Conferences
- Pre-sentence Investigations, Reports and Sentencing
- Post-Conviction Motions
What Is an Indictment
An indictment is simply a formal charge by a grand jury. Depending on the complexity of your charges, an indictment can either be very long or very short in length. When you are initially arrested for a crime, the charges can be reduced or dropped prior to the indictment, but if the grand jury finds enough cause to formally charge you with the alleged crime, you will be handed an indictment by the state.
The Grand Jury
A grand jury is composed of ordinary citizens who have been chosen to serve on the grand jury for your particular charges. The grand jury will hear the charges from the prosecutor if they have not been downgraded, diverted, dismissed or pled out. After hearing evidence regarding the case, the grand jury will decide whether to formally charge the accused in the form of an indictment. An indictment is NOT a finding of guilt. In order for a grand jury to grant an indictment, a majority must agree that the evidence is enough to proceed to trial.
How Does the Indictment Work?
Neither the accused nor the attorney of the accused is required to be present at the indictment. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury and witnesses may testify. However, the defendant may be permitted to testify in front of the grand jury if it is requested, but only if the defendant agrees to waive his or her right against self-incrimination.
If a majority of the 23 jurors find that there is sufficient evidence to indict, a “true bill” will be filed with the Criminal Superior Court. If the grand jury finds that there is insufficient evidence to proceed, a “no bill” will be filed and the charges will be dropped. The grand jury may also reduce the charges to a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons charge, in which case the accused will face these less serious charges in municipal court.
If you have been charged with a crime in New Jersey, you have the right to legal representation. Contact Villani & DeLuca at [dyna_phone phone=’1′ format=’dashed’] to learn more about the criminal process. Representatives are available 24/7 to discuss your options.