This Tip Will Save You
Thousands Of Dollars In Legal Fees.
Have your criminal charges been dismissed? Have you been acquitted?
Learn how you can save a lot of money in attorney fees
One of life’s most humiliating, frustrating and demoralizing experiences can be getting arrested. The majority of people who get arrested are not career criminals. They are regular, hard-working people, who are either innocent of the criminal allegation OR they exercised poor judgment and committed a tremendous mistake. Sometimes that mistake can lead to a criminal arrest. For example, slapping your brother-in-law in the face at a family picnic can lead to an arrest for Simple Assault.
New Jersey Municipal handle the majority of these minor criminal cases. The New Jersey Supreme Court has recognized that the overwhelming majority of arrests are resolved at the Municipal Court level. In fact, the Court estimates that over 90% of New Jersey resident’s only contact with the legal system is with New Jersey Municipal courts.
In my experience,
criminal defendants who appear in Municipal Court fall into three broad categories. Please note that I am excluding DUI/DWI defendants from this discussion because a DUI/DWI offense in New Jersey is not a criminal offense; it is a traffic offense (Title 39). DUI/DWI’s are considered “quasi-criminal” due to the fact that in DUI/DWI case a defendant faces jail time.
However, for purposes of this article, we will not be including traffic offenses in our analysis because traffic offenses cannot be expunged (erased) from a person’s criminal record. In New Jersey, a DUI/DWI conviction is made part of your driving history (abstract) for life. A DUI/DWI conviction will not appear as a criminal conviction in New Jersey. Instead, I will show you how to save a lot of money in legal fees with a very simple tip.
Let’s get back to our defendant. A defendant is a person who is alleged to have committed a certain criminal offense (crime). Remember that in the United States of America, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that either a judge or a jury, depending on who is deciding guilt or innocence, must always view the accused (defendant) as innocent. The USA is leading the world with this approach. In other countries, the exact opposite occurs. The mere accusation of someone doing something wrong is tantamount (the same) as declaring that person guilty.
Let’s get back to our three categories of Municipal Court defendants. I have appeared countless times in Municipal Court and in my experience, defendants are usually charged with offenses falling into one of these three categories:
A) Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) Offenses;
B) Simple Assault; or
A CDS arrest could involve possession of CDS or a CDS related charge such as possession of a syringe/hypodermic needle. A simple assault offense usually arises out of Domestic Violence situations or alcohol-infused confrontations between strangers in a public bar or with close relatives at a private party. Lastly, Harassment charges almost always stem from lover’s quarrels or when good relationships have gone extremely bad.
When romantic relationships end, sometimes the breakup is not mutual. The person who is left feeling abandoned or scorned continues to contact the ex-partner. This unwelcome and continued, persistent contact usually results in the filing of Harassment charges. Oftentimes neighbors living in close quarters get on each other’s nerves. The situation escalates to the point where one neighbor loses all patience and files Harassment charges.
Of course, there are exceptions. Not every case in Municipal Court falls into one of the categories listed above. In addition to petty disorderly and disorderly persons offenses, New Jersey Municipal courts also hear matters involving local town ordinances. Every town in New Jersey enacts local legislation (known as an ordinance) prohibiting certain conduct within the jurisdiction of that town. For example, almost every town in New Jersey has an ordinance against public urination, loud noise, and public alcohol consumption. People do get arrested for violating these ordinances and must appear in court.
Okay, so now that we’ve established the types of cases that stream through our New Jersey Municipal Court system, let’s briefly examine the process. For purposes of simplifying the lesson, we will use the example of a person arrested for allegedly committing Simple Assault on his girlfriend. We’ll name the person accused of (defendant) committing Simple Assault, Bad Guy (BG).
BG and his girlfriend were dating for five years. They often argued but during their long-term relationship, BG never physically hurt his girlfriend. BG is a college graduate, with a full-time job, and a clean criminal record. One night BG was at a bar with his girlfriend. He had nine tequila shots and chased each one with a beer. She only drank diet-soda while at the bar. When she noticed BG’s speech begin to slur, she paid the bar bill and told BG it was time to leave.
As they approached the car, BG insisted on driving. He demanded to have the car keys but she held her ground and refused. BG got more upset and poked his girlfriend in the right shoulder with his index finger. She did not feel any pain when he poked her. He was heavily intoxicated and weak. However, a police officer happened to witness the whole incident and arrested BG for Simple Assault.
BG is scheduled to appear in court a week later. He does the right thing and decides to retain a defense attorney. BG and his attorney appear in court and request all Discovery (evidence) in the matter. The Prosecutor forwards all evidence to BG’s defense attorney and the matter is scheduled for another Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) 30 days later. The Prosecutor also sends notice to BG’s girlfriend, as well as the arresting officer, to appear on the same date.
We fast forward 30 days later and everyone is present in court. The Prosecutor reviews BG’s criminal record and learns that BG has never been in trouble with the law. The Prosecutor reads the police report and meets with the arresting officer. The officer confirms that what he wrote in the report is accurate. He witnessed BG use his index finger to poke the victim. Next, the Prosecutor meets with the victim and interviews her.
She explains that they’ve been dating for five years and that BG never laid a finger on her. She also adds that when BG poked her in the shoulder, she did not feel any pain and describes the touching more as a “gentle love tap”. She insists that she does not want to proceed with any charges against BG.
In fact, they are engaged to be married and she is pregnant with this child. She further insists that he has a high-income job and a criminal conviction on his record would jeopardize his employment. She insists that the charge be completely dismissed!
The Prosecutor agrees to a dismissal of the charge as long as BG agrees to enter into a six-week anger-management class. Once he can demonstrate that he is proactively seeking assistance for his anger-management issues, the Prosecutor will agree to dismiss the charges. BG’s defense attorney communicates the offer and BG agrees.
They return six weeks later with a certificate evidencing the successful completion of an anger management course and the charge is dismissed. BG does not have any criminal conviction on his impeccable (clean) record!!!
HERE IT IS:
ALTHOUGH BG’S ARREST FOR SIMPLE ASSAULT WAS DISMISSED AND HE DID NOT RECEIVE A CRIMINAL CONVICTION ON HIS RECORD, THE ARREST FOR THE SIMPLE ASSAULT WILL REMAIN ON HIS RECORD UNLESS HE IMMEDIATELY FILES A FORM WITH THE MUNICIPAL COURT TO EXPUNGE(ERASE) THE RECORD OF THAT ARREST.
As of April 18, 2016, the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) issued Directive #02-16 which states the following:
Municipal Court Proceedings
Where the proceedings were dismissed, the person was acquitted, or the person was discharged without a conviction or finding of guilt on or after April 18, 2016 in Municipal Court, that court must provide the person, upon request, with appropriate documentation to be transmitted to the Superior Court to request an expungement. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6a(1).
This is where your money saving tip comes in. If you are represented by Defense Counsel, they should be familiar with this change in the law and make the request for the form to fill out on the day your charges were dismissed. However, if your attorney forgets, make you may have to retain counsel to do this.
In our example, the case was dismissed but the new Directive allows for the expungement of arrest records to include Acquittals AND/OR Discharge without a Conviction of Finding of Guilt. If your case goes to trial, and the judge finds acquits you (finds you not guilty), then you can request the expungement of your arrest.
Far too many defendants leave the court believing that their nightmare is behind them but, the truth is that a record of their arrest remains. This arrest may appear years later when a potential employer is performing a criminal background check. It comes as a surprise to every defendant when they learn that an arrest record remained. In a state of embarrassing shock, they exclaim, “But that criminal charge was dismissed!!!” This is true.
However, the arrest record remains and now they have to hire an attorney to help them file an expungement to clean their record. Fees for expungements vary, but most attorneys charge an average of $1,500.00 to $3,000.00 depending on each matter.
Save yourself the trouble, file to have your arrest record erased the same day your matter is resolved in your favor.