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What Are My Rights if I'm Arrested in New Jersey?


If you’ve been arrested, a million thoughts likely raced through your mind while under custody. Will I go to jail? If so, how long will I be there? How will this affect the rest of my life? What will my family and friends think? Is there any hope for me in my circumstances?

When in this scenario, it’s essential you know your rights and secure the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

If you reside in New Jersey and are looking to secure the defense of a quality criminal defense attorney, you want experts like Paul B. Brickfield and Joseph R. Donahue—both former prosecutors—on your side.

Should I Choose a Public Defender or Private Attorney?

A private attorney can typically devote more time and resources to each case than a public defender.

When you secure the representation of a public defender, each phase of your case is handled by a different attorney. This can feel disorganized and confusing for you, the client, especially when it comes to matters of miscommunication.

When you hire a private attorney, you can usually count on working with the same legal team from start to finish. This will save you unnecessary headaches and grant you peace of mind during this tumultuous time. This is your life on the line—you need an attorney who’s resolute, skilled, ready to defend you and help you understand your options moving forward.

Miranda Rights

When you’re arrested, an officer must state your Miranda rights. It’s important for you to know your Miranda rights (also known as Miranda warnings) when facing criminal charges. Miranda rights are a constitutional requirement and “the golden rule” that protects both the innocent and the guilty.

A Brief History of Miranda Rights

The requirement to give Miranda warnings came from a Supreme Court decision, known as Miranda vs. Arizona, in 1966. In Miranda, the Court held that a defendant (the person arrested) cannot be questioned by police until they make the defendant aware of certain rights.

These rights arise from the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

What Are My Miranda Rights?

After you’re arrested, an officer should state your Miranda rights as follows:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
  • With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

If the cops fail to read you your Miranda warnings and you made statements to them while under custody, then you can possibly have those statements thrown out (in other words, it’s possible your words can’t be held against you).

Additionally, according to your Miranda rights, you have the right to an attorney and don’t have to give the police any information (except for your name and driver’s license) until you have a lawyer present.

Police Headquarters

After you’re arrested, you’re usually taken to either a police station for booking and holding or straight to jail.

The booking and holding process typically consists of the following steps.

  • Recording Information: Various information is collected including your name, contact information, and the nature of the alleged crime.
  • Mug Shot: A series of photos are taken of you; your height and weight are recorded.
  • Personal Belongings Taken: You may have to relinquish your clothing in exchange for a jail uniform. Any other belongings in your possession are confiscated.
  • Fingerprints: Once an impression of your fingerprints is taken, it’s compared to any applicable evidence, then stored in a database indefinitely. You may also have to provide DNA samples through saliva or hair.
  • Full-Body Search: The police strip-search you to ensure you’re bringing no weapons or drugs into the holding cell.
  • Warrant Check: A database search is conducted to ascertain if you have any outstanding warrants.
  • Health Check: You undergo a health screening to determine if you need immediate care.
  • Incarceration: Once the above steps are completed, you’re placed in a holding cell to await trial or the posting of bail.

Exception: Minor Offenses

If you are arrested for a minor offense, you may not have to endure the entire booking and holding procedure, but rather could be released after signing a citation stating you’ll appear in court on a later date.

Why You Shouldn’t Talk at the Headquarters

Often, during the booking and holding process, defendants think they can start talking their way out of charges or outsmart the cops. This is the opposite of what you should do if you may have been involved in a crime and are placed under arrest, as you may inadvertently provide the very evidence prosecutors need to build a case against you.

Instead, you should affirmatively (and politely) inform law enforcement that you’re invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent until you have a lawyer present.

Additionally, if you start answering questions at any point after your arrest, you hold the right to stop answering questions if you feel uncomfortable.

Will My Case Go to Trial?

Most of our cases do not end in trial but are resolved through charges being dismissed or a plea bargain.

A plea bargain is when the prosecution and defendant come to an agreement through negotiation outside of court. Often, when criminal defense cases are resolved through a plea bargain, the severity of punishments is lessened for the defendant.

Plea bargaining is also beneficial for judges and prosecutors, as the court system can experience overcrowding and be burdened by a high volume of criminal cases. Criminal trials tend to be drawn-out—often taking months to resolve—and resolutions can typically be reached more quickly through a plea bargain.

Another benefit of plea bargaining is that if you have multiple charges in your case, a plea bargain can potentially allow you to plea for fewer charges (hence, less severe punishments).

Can My Charges Be Expunged?

According to New Jersey law, your past criminal charges can be expunged, or cleared, under specific circumstances if you’ve lived a crime-free life for a certain number of years.

If you want to know if you can be granted expungement, you must speak with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Call us today at (201) 574-7919 or submit your information here to schedule your consultation.

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