Criminal Case Process in Middlesex County NJ

Criminal Case Process in Middlesex County NJ

Getting arrested is one of the most terrifying ordeals you can go through in life. In fact, studies show contact with the justice system—from arrest to trial—can seriously affect your physical and mental health1.

There are a few ways to lessen this heavy burden. The best is to hire an aggressive, focused New Jersey criminal defense attorney like me. I have over 25 years of experience successfully defending clients who were in very similar positions to the one you’re in now.

But first, read through this guide to the criminal case process in Middlesex County NJ. When you understand the road ahead of you, working together on your custom defense strategy goes much more smoothly—plus, you’ll be able to sleep at night since you always know what step comes next.

Middlesex County Municipal Court and Superior Court Proceedings

You might be surprised to hear that Middlesex County court proceedings don’t always follow the exact same steps. Basically, certain details like when you’re arrested and whether your case proceeds to trial are decided on a case-by-case basis.

For example, you might be arrested immediately following an alleged crime. Or there may be a warrant2 out for your arrest after the offense, which authorizes officers to take you into custody. Below are the various proceedings that commonly occur in Middlesex County criminal cases.

Pre-Arrest Investigation

This is the very beginning of the criminal case process in Middlesex County NJ. Police investigate an alleged offense. This may involve talking to witnesses, and law enforcement officials may even want to question you.

If this happens to you, never forget that the US Constitution grants you the right to an attorney. You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—go through this process alone.

Bench and Arrest Warrants

Bench and arrest warrants are court orders that formally authorize the police to take a person into custody. A bench warrant is typically issued if you fail to pay court fines, fail to appear in court, or fail to appear for a sentencing hearing. An arrest warrant can be issued once a judge agrees there’s probable cause for the criminal complaint against you.

With bench warrants, you’ll likely get something in the mail notifying you of the issuance. But the same can’t be said for arrest warrants—many people don’t realize the warrant exists until the moment handcuffs are placed on their wrists.

Arrest and Charges

Once you’re arrested, the police have to provide your Miranda warning, more commonly called Miranda rights. These include your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney, among others.

Police may also try to conduct a search relevant to your arrest. They’ll want to search you and your immediate surroundings for any potential evidence. However, a skilled NJ criminal defense attorney like myself will try to block the search. If they don’t have a search warrant or valid exceptions for a warrantless search, for example, we may be able to prevent it.

You’ll be taken to a police station for processing. The police will record your photograph, fingerprints, and basic information.


Arraignment is when the charges against you are formally read off by a judge. It’s your initial appearance in Municipal Court.


For more serious offenses in Middlesex County, a Grand Jury will review the evidence and decide if it’s sufficient to formally charge you. There isn’t a trial—this jury only hears the prosecutor’s side before making their verdict.

However, your innocence or guilt isn’t decided here. Indictment is just the process of deciding whether your case will be heard in Superior Court. If you’re indicted, you’ll have another arraignment in Superior Court.

Pre-Trial Conference

After your arraignment, a pre-trial conference is usually the next court appearance. You, your attorney, and the prosecution will discuss your case and try to negotiate. They’ll likely want you to admit guilt and take a plea deal, while a knowledgeable NJ criminal defense attorney will work to reduce or dismiss the charges.

Multiple pre-trial conferences are both allowed and common. Both sides will also discuss evidence, witnesses, and anything else relevant to your case. The prosecution may modify the conditions of the offered plea deal as your case progresses.


Motions are essentially formal legal requests to modify details of the trial. A “motion to suppress evidence” is one of the most common. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the “bloody glove” from the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

A motion to suppress can also impact witness statements. If a piece of evidence or a statement was obtained illegally, filing a motion can prevent it from being heard in court. This can ultimately strengthen your case and help minimize any penalties.


It’s possible to reach a plea agreement before your case goes to trial. This often takes the form of pleading guilty to reduced charges, or pleading guilty to one offense in exchange for a dismissal of others.

But keep in mind, a plea agreement can—and often does—include jail time.

If you’re considering a plea agreement, it’s critical that you speak with a knowledgeable, experienced Middlesex County criminal defense lawyer ASAP. This ensures you understand the terms and don’t agree to an unfair deal.


If your charges aren’t dismissed and you don’t reach a plea agreement with the prosecution, you’ll proceed to trial. Depending on whether you’re being charged with an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense, you’ll appear in either Municipal Court or Superior Court.

In New Jersey, you have the right to a jury at your trial. You also have the option to waive this right and appear before only a judge, which is called a “bench trial.” Each type has potential pros and cons depending on the details of your case.

If you’re found not guilty, you can finally start to put all of this behind you. If you’re found guilty, you’ll be sentenced by a judge.


If you’re found guilty at your trial or plead guilty as part of a plea agreement, you’ll be sentenced by a judge. New Jersey sentencing law requires the judge to consider many factors before issuing your sentence.

There are laws regarding the minimum and maximum amount of jail time for certain offenses. But quite a few other details matter here too, such as whether you have a criminal record and whether anyone was hurt during the offense.

Criminal Appeals

Appealing the ruling on your case may be an option. But know this doesn’t guarantee a re-trial. When you appeal the court’s decision, a higher court will review your case for errors, violations, etc. Very rarely will you get the opportunity to present any new factual evidence in this scenario.

You typically need to file your notice of appeal no more than 45 days after the court makes its judgment. You and your attorney have to argue your case and demonstrate that the lower court’s ruling is faulty or was reached in error.

Post-Conviction Relief

If your appeal is denied or you don’t file it in time, post-conviction relief is the next thing to explore. This can take many forms, but the basic goal is to minimize the negative impacts of your sentence.

You may also benefit from leveraging these options before resolving your case. For example, your attorney could take steps to mitigate your driver’s license revocation, or lobby to place you in a diversionary program instead of facing harsher penalties.

No matter where you currently are in the criminal case process in Middlesex NJ, call me anytime at (732) 487-3388. I’m available 24/7 because I understand these things often happen outside of ‘normal business hours.’

Criminal Case Process in Middlesex County NJ FAQs

How does one get charged with a crime in Middlesex County?

In Middlesex County NJ, you can get charged with a crime when one of these things happens:

  1. A grand jury decides to issue an indictment against you.
  2. A citizen formally accuses you of a crime.
  3. The police issue a formal complaint against you.

After you’re charged, you can be arrested at the scene of the crime or somewhere else entirely. It depends on details like the nature of the alleged offense and whether law enforcement officials witness you first-hand.

What factors influence sentencing in Middlesex County criminal cases?

Per Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, factors that influence sentencing in Middlesex County criminal cases are mitigating factors and aggravating factors.

Aggravating factors are details like:

  • How aggressive or heinous the nature of the offense is
  • The severity of harm inflicted on any victims
  • The likelihood of you being involved in organized crime
  • The extent and nature of past offenses on your criminal record

Mitigating factors, on the other hand, would include:

  • If your conduct didn’t include threatening or causing harm to someone else
  • You were heavily provoked or goaded into committing the offense
  • If you already have or will compensate the victim(s) for damage and injuries
  • You have no criminal record or prior delinquency issues

Can charges be dropped before going to court in Middlesex County?

Yes, charges can be dropped before going to court in Middlesex County. But getting your case dismissed doesn’t just happen by chance—you can’t sit back and hope the prosecutors are going to change their minds.

In the 25 years I’ve been defending clients and seeing them through the criminal case process in Middlesex County NJ, the world has changed quite a bit. But one thing that hasn’t is just how much of a difference hiring a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney can make.

I invite you to call me, Middlesex County Criminal Defense Lawyer John B. Fabriele, III now at (732) 487-3388 for your free case evaluation. Whether you’re facing charges in Middlesex County Municipal Court or Superior Court, I have the knowledge, ability, and experience to defend you. Call now to start building your custom defense strategy.