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Criminal Court System in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there is a difference between federal and state systems in resolving criminal law cases. Under the New Jersey state system, state courts are courts of general jurisdiction. The trial level for a criminal case happens at the Criminal Division of a Superior Court. The complaint charges an accused. A law enforcement agent may issue the complaint. The complaint states a violation of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (Title 2C).

Once a complaint is issued, defendants are either arrested or issued a summons or notice to appear Superior Court on a first appearance. If the defendant fails to appear, a warrant may be issued for the person’s arrest by a judge. At the first court appearance, the court advises the defendant of rights. The defendant may make a plea. The court reviews bail. Defendants in New Jersey courts have a right to a jury trial. When a defendant wins a trial, s/he is free to go and may not be tried again for the same crime. If the defendant loses, the defendant may appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. This is New Jersey’s intermediate Appellate Court. If the defendant loses on appeal, the defendant may go to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the highest appellate court. The court agrees to hear an appeal when it presents legal issues of importance to the public or because the issue is the subject of separate, conflicting appellate opinions. The court interprets the New Jersey and the United States Constitution, New Jersey statutes, administrative regulations of the state’s governmental agencies, when deciding cases.

In federal court, there are two methods to get a case into federal jurisdiction: (1) federal question of law, (2) diversity. A federal question means any issues that come under the US Constitution or federal law. A criminal case may also be heard in federal court if the case involves the US as a party. In the federal system, a criminal case begins in Magistrates Court. A Magistrate Court is known to issue warrants for searches of homes or other property. The US District Court is where a criminal case gets tried. The jurors decide the facts of the case here.

A defendant gets a first right of appeal in a US Court of Appeal. All the states in the US are split into 13 circuits. An appellate court only decides legal questions. No jury or judges is involved in an appeal to decide the facts. The appellate court takes the facts as they are decided by the trial courts. The appellate courts are only concerned with whether the law was applied properly in the trial stage. If the defendant loses an appeal, s/he may appeal to the US Supreme Court through a writ of certiorari. The US Supreme Court does not hear all cases, but picks and chooses those that have society impact.

Diversity for a federal court is met when the parties are from different states. The concept came into play to protect people from being disadvantaged when they go into someone else’s home state for a law suit.

When accused of a crime, engage a New Jersey criminal defense attorney, who understands the criminal court system. Contact the Law Office of Jason A. Volet at (732) 503-8968 or fill out the form on the right.

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