When New Jersey police officers place someone under arrest, it can seem like a lot is happening in a short period of time. A suspect may not fully understand why officers are arresting him or her, and what is happening may seem unfair. However, it is important to keep in mind that facing arrest is not the same as having formal criminal charges brought against you.
If officers have recently taken you into custody for any reason, you may understandably worry about what comes next. Though officers may have arrested you on suspicion of a certain crime, the prosecutor or grand jury involved in the case determines the exact charges that may come against you.
What goes into the decision?
The prosecutor receives information from the police officers regarding your arrest and the event or events that led to the arrest. The information is in an arrest report, which the prosecutor reviews, and the prosecutor then decides whether to take one of the following actions:
- The prosecutor could choose not to seek formal charges.
- The prosecutor could file a complaint with the court, detailing the charges deemed applicable.
- The prosecutor could present the evidence of the alleged crime to a grand jury who would then decide what charges should result, if any.
Other steps could be involved, depending on the type of crime suspected. For instance, if authorities suspect that you committed a felony, the prosecutor will go to a preliminary hearing before a judge if he or she did not choose to use a grand jury. The preliminary hearing would involve the prosecutor presenting evidence to the judge in efforts to show that criminal charges and a trial are necessary.
What does the decision mean for you?
While you undoubtedly hope that the prosecutor or grand jury will choose not to pursue formal charges, that best-case scenario does not always play out. You could find yourself facing criminal charges, some of which could be serious, and you would then likely need to determine how to best defend against those allegations. Fortunately, you do not have to try to get through this ordeal alone. From the moment officers question you about your activities, you have the right to an attorney who could guide you throughout the process.