What to Expect When You Get Arrested in New Jersey


An “arrest” occurs when anyone in the state of New Jersey has been charged with a criminal offense. Your case begins with the arrest and will continue through one or more appearances in court at a later date. Under New Jersey law, there are certain steps that the police, prosecutors, and courts take when processing criminal defendants who have been arrested. It is crucial to know and understand these steps and how they may apply to your case if you have been arrested, or if a loved one has been arrested and you are unsure of what will happen next. To consult an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer now about an arrest in NJ, contact us at (201) 793-8018.

What Happens When a Person Gets Arrested in NJ?

Upon arrest, the officer will run a defendant’s name in the system. In doing so, the officer is checking for current active warrant, open matters, and the extent of a person’s criminal history. The person charged is usually taken to the police station and fingerprinted. The fingerprints are entered into the system and an SBI number (state bureau identification number utilized in identifying someone in this state with a prior criminal history ) is obtained (if available). The SBI or NCIC numbers (national identification number to identify a person in the database with a prior criminal history) exist if the person has a prior criminal history and will assist the officer in determining the extent of the history, as well as existence of any warrants. This process is often referred to as “booking.”

What Happens When Charged With a Crime in New Jersey?

A person arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey is technically given a “criminal complaint.” And there are two distinct types of criminal complaints: warrant complaints and summons complaints. There are differences between warrants and summonses, and the type of complaint you are charged on is extremely important when determining what happens next. If you have been arrested on the spot, meaning you were arrested at the time of the alleged offense, the police officer may make the initial decision to put your complaint either on a summons or a warrant. The procedures for deciding whether to put the matter on a summons or warrant varies from county to county and each individual prosecutor’s offices may follow slightly different procedures. However, generally, the police and prosecutors look at a persons prior criminal history and the nature of the current offense in deciding to issue a warrant or a complaint.

If there is no criminal history or a limited history and the current charges are not indictable in nature, the officer may opt to put the complaint on a summons. If a police officer puts your criminal matter on a summons complaint, it means you are free to go and are told to report to court for your first appearance. You will not be made to go to the county jail before you are released. At your first appearance, the judge will advise you of your rights, programs available through the court, and your next required court date. Additionally, you will be advised of the charges against you.

However, if you have the misfortune of being placed on a warrant, you will be taken to the county jail and will be brought before a judge, via video or in person, typically within one or two days. This begins the bail determination process, which has significantly changed in recent years under Criminal Justice Reform (CJR).

What if a Person Is in Jail, When Is Bail Determined?

After you are arrested and charged on a warrant, the division of the court known as Pre-trial Services in the Criminal Division, will enter your name in a database. Using the fingerprint system and criminal history system, they will determine your “score,” for bail. Your score, known as a Public Safety Assessment (PSA) is used to determine whether the recommendation is to release you or hold you pending a detention hearing. Even if Pretrial Services determines that your score recommends release, the prosecutor may opt to file a motion to hold you until your trial or resolution of your case.

You will know whether the state wants to hold you shortly after your arrest and processing. When in jail, you will go in front of the judge and will be informed if you are being held or released. If you are being held, a detention motion will be heard within a few days and at the hearing, the court will decide whether to continue to hold you or release you. There is no longer a cash bail system in New Jersey. The court now relies on your scoring, which examines your risk of re-offense, your risk of failing to appear in court, the nature of your offense, and whether you are a danger to the community. The judge will focus on these issues at your detention hearing and the prosecutor will present arguments as to why you should be held. The good news is, you are entitled to have an attorney representing you at a detention hearing as well. Your lawyer has the same opportunity to represent your interests. While some things cannot be changed, such as your arrest or warrant, your attorney can discuss your case with prosecutor and argue for your release.

Do I Need a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Jersey City?

If you or someone you know has been arrested in New Jersey, you need to get a lawyer involved at the earliest stage possible. Having someone with experience in criminal defense can significantly impact your case from the very beginning. Seek counsel from an attorney who can advise and protect your rights while positioning you for a better outcome at each phase of the process. Contact the skilled criminal defense lawyers at our firm immediately if you or a loved one has been arrested in Jersey City, Hoboken, Kearny, Union City, Secaucus, Weehawken, Bayonne, or elsewhere in the Hudson County region. With local offices in Jersey City, we represent clients facing criminal charges in Hudson County and surrounding areas virtually every day. Call (201) 793-8018 for help with your case or request a free consultation online today.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.