Branigan Law Firm

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Criminal Defense Law

Arrest Warrants
A warrant for the arrest of a person is an order signed by a judge authorizing any law enforcement agent to take that person into custody. A bench warrant is usually an arrest warrant issued by a judge while sitting in court when a defendant fails to appear in court. Both municipal court and superior court judges have the authority to issue arrest warrants.

If you learn that a warrant has been issued for your arrest you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer. Often it is possible for the lawyer to arrange for your surrender and to negotiate a reasonable bail so that you will not be held in jail. Arrest warrants remain in the criminal system indefinitely, so the fact that you have not been arrested does not mean that the warrant has been cancelled or lost. If a warrant for your arrest has been issued you are subject to being detained at any time. This is why you should contact a criminal defense attorney so that you can control the timing of your surrender.

Bail Reduction
When a person is arrested in New Jersey bail is usually set by a municipal court judge (town judge) unless the charges are too serious. All bails on felony charges are reviewed after that by a judge of the Superior Court.

Bails can be set in several ways. A judge can order that a certain amount of cash (called a cash bail) is required to be posted. The judge can also permit a 10% cash alternative in which the person can post 10% of the bail and be released. In both of these cases the person who paid the bail will receive the bail money back at the end of the case assuming that the person arrested appears at every court appearance. The amount and nature of the bail is determined by the judge.

A judge can also set a bond bail which requires a bail bond agency to be involved. In these cases the person seeking to bail out a person arrested must pay a fee to a bail bonding agency, which then will post the amount of the bail with the court. The person posting the money with the bail bond agency does not get this money back after the case is concluded. This is the fee to the bonding agency for posting the bond.

Bail can be posted 24 hours daily, either at the local police station (if the person arrested has not been transferred to the county jail), or at the jail itself. Bail can also be posted at the courthouse during regular business hours.

If a friend or loved one is arrested you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer to determine the bail status and to arrange for a motion to reduce the bail if the amount of the bail is excessive. Often a motion to reduce bail can be heard within one or two days of the persons arrest. It is important to take this step without delay to ensure that the person arrested does not linger in jail while bail is being arranged.

Criminal Record Expungements
The State of New Jersey permits the expungement (sealing) of certain arrests and convictions which occurred in New Jersey. Not all charges which result in a conviction are eligible for expungement. If you have been arrested and the charge(s) have been dismissed you will in almost every case be eligible for an expungement. Likewise if you have received Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or first offender treatment and have successfully completed the terms of your probation or conditional discharge you will likely be eligible for an expungement.

If it appears that you are eligible for an expungement in New Jersey your attorney will file a petition with the Superior Court requesting a judge to sign an Order of Expungement. All parties in New Jersey who monitor criminal records on you (Attorney General; County Prosecutor; and other agencies) are then notified of your expungement request. If none of these agencies object to the expungement then the judge will typically order that the expungement take place.

You should be aware that federal crimes are not subject to expungement, and that if you have a criminal record for other offenses you may be barred from obtaining an expungement. However, if the judge grants the petition for expungement you will receive a certified court order permitting you to state under oath that the arrest and/or conviction did NOT occur, and it will be removed from the public record of your file.Law enforcement agencies (local police; state police; federal agencies) will continue to have access to your records, even though they are expunged.

Expungement is an extremely valuable tool to seal your prior record. If eligible, an expungement is extremely beneficial in that when you are applying for certain jobs you can legally answer “NO” if asked, “have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?” The same is true for leasing agreements, permits, and most applications that ask questions regarding your criminal history. You should consult with a criminal defense attorney to determine if you are eligible for an expungement.

Domestic Violence Charges
The laws and procedures with regard to domestic violence have changed dramatically in New Jersey. If you and a member of your family or a boyfriend or girlfriend become involved in a dispute and the police are called, it is likely that one of the persons involved will be arrested and restrained from returning to the place where the dispute occurred. The person arrested will then be placed in jail until bail is posted. Domestic violence could even be merely a charge of harassment; no actual violence is required.

If you are charged with domestic violence it is likely that you will then have to appear in at least two courts: the municipal court where the offense occurred, and a special domestic violence court which is part of the Superior Court in the county court building. The domestic violence case is usually heard without delay because a restraining order frequently addresses other issues, such as child custody and support, restraints against various persons and addresses, and requires the removal of guns and other weapons.

If you are charged with domestic violence you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your court date will be set for a date soon after your arrest and you will be required to defend the domestic violence case within one week. A domestic violence case can affect many aspects of your life, such as where you can live, who you can contact, child support and visitation, and can also result in a jail sentence.

Drug Charges (Possession & Distribution)
Drug offenses in New Jersey range from simple possession of small amounts of marijuana to being charged as a drug king pin, which carries a substantial jail sentence. Unlike other states, such as New York, even possessing marijuana or other common drugs (such as heroin or cocaine) may be treated as felonies and involve a potential jail sentence. Of course, being found guilty of possession of an illegal drug with the intent to distribute will always be charged as a felony. In New Jersey “distribution” also includes sharing or giving away illegal drugs, as well as actually selling drugs for profit.

You can be charged with a drug offense even though you did not actually have the drugs in your possession. For example, if you are in a car which is stopped and searched by the police, and drugs are found, you can be charged with joint possession of drugs, even though the drugs are not found on you. Similarly, if your home is searched and drugs are found there, you may be charged with a drug offense even though you are not home at the time and other people also reside in your home.

Possession and sale of illegal drugs is a crime under both New Jersey State law and under federal law. You will need the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the criminal court process.

DWI, DUI, Drunk Driving
Under the law in New Jersey, someone charged with drunk driving can be prosecuted as a traditional DWI, in which the prosecution attempts to prove a person was under the influence based on driving patterns and a field sobriety test performance, or by a showing of violation of the per se law which has a legal limit of .08 percent.  Having the right attorney’s expertise in these matters can assist you to find inconsistencies in the police reporting or prosecution’s case that can be used to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.

For those under the age of 21, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.01 percent or greater.  Violation of this law results in license suspension for 30 to 90 days, and community service for 15 to 30 days.  Minors facing such charges should contact a drunk driving lawyer in New Jersey right away to review their case.

Federal Criminal Offense
If you are charged with a Federal court crime your case will be handled much differently than in State court.

First, unlike in State Court, you can be detained on federal charges without the opportunity to post bail. If the federal judge or magistrate makes certain findings in court, you can be held in jail for the duration of your case. Second, bail is called “conditions of release” in the federal system. Your criminal defense lawyer can propose various release conditions (home detention; electronic monitoring; third party custodian; bond co-signers; property bond) which, if the judge agrees, can lead to your release from jail.

Third, the penalties in the Federal system are usually more severe than in the State system. Also there is a great deal of overlap between crimes in the State system (such as gun possession; drug sales; armed robbery; fraud; embezzlement) and the federal system. Whether you will be charged in the state system or the federal system, or both, depends on the decision made by the state and federal authorities.

Fourth, the federal system utilizes sentencing guidelines which, while not mandatory, guide the judge in imposing sentence. The guidelines include information as to the amount of drugs (in a drug case) or the amount of money involved (in a fraud case), or whether a gun was used in the crime. You will need to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who is very familiar with the federal system and the sentencing guidelines in order to ensure that your case is handled properly.

Juvenile Court
Juvenile law is mainly governed by state law and most states have enacted a juvenile code.  The main goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment.  However, juveniles can be transferred into adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction.

The federal government has confined its role of funding state efforts to prevent juvenile delinquency and setting standards for state laws.  Congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act in 1968, which was later revised and renamed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act.  The purpose of this act is to help states and local communities provide community based preventative services to youths in danger of becoming delinquent, help train people who provide those services, and provide technical assistance in the programs.

The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act defines juvenile delinquency (any act that is otherwise a crime, but is committed by someone under 18 years of age) and sets forth rules by which state laws must comply with regard to juvenile court procedures and punishments.  Juvenile crime is called an act of delinquency and requires court intervention to correct the delinquency.  These courts are known as juvenile courts and they have their own special rules and procedures.  If you are found guilty of a juvenile crime, you may be sent to a reform school or another public institution, placed in a foster home, or returned to your parents and placed on probation or house arrest.

A defendant may retain a juvenile law attorney at any stage of his or her case, whether it is during the investigation or the day before arraignment.  Sean Branigan understands the juvenile court rules and procedures, which are different than those in the adult court system.

Municipal Court Offenses
In New Jersey municipal courts (town or city courts) handle all motor vehicle offenses, as well as disorderly persons offenses, such as simple assault, possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia, and harassment. If you are charged with a more serious crime (such as a felony) you will have to appear in the municipal court for a first appearance but your case will then be forwarded to the New Jersey Superior Court (trial court for felonies).

A judge in a municipal court has the power to impose monetary penalties set by the legislature, up to $1000 fine for disorderly persons offenses and up to six months in jail. In the case of driving while intoxicated the fines, penalties, and jail sentence may be considerable, especially for a repeat offender. Many moving violations also carry considerable monetary penalties, jail time, loss of your driving privileges, and motor vehicle points. Imposition of motor vehicle points may also cause your insurance company to raise your insurance rates.

Sexual Assault, Harassment & Abuse
Sexual offenses are treated very seriously in New Jersey. If your are found guilty of a sexual offense you may go to jail, have to be on parole for the rest of your life, have to register as a sex offender with your local police department, and have your identity and address placed on the internet as a sex offender.

In many cases of sexual assault charges there may be no evidence against you except the testimony of the alleged victim. However, this testimony can be sufficient for a jury to find you guilty.Therefore, even if there is no DNA/evidence or eyewitnesses to the events you can still be convicted and face serious consequences.

If you are charged with a sexual offense — either involving an adult or an underage child — you should consult with a criminal defense attorney to advise you of your rights. You should also terminate any contact with the alleged victim, including emails, telephone contact, or social media contact.

Shoplifting Charges
Shoplifting charges are usually handled in the municipal court of the town in which the shoplifting occurred. Shoplifting charges should be taken seriously, especially for repeat offenders who may face a jail sentence of up to six months in jail. There are also fines and penalties involved, restitution, and many times a court order preventing the shoplifter from returning to the store involved.

Shoplifting is aggressively prosecuted in New Jersey. If you are arrested for shoplifting you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights.

Traffic Violations
Traffic violations in New Jersey can have serious and costly consequences and should not be taken lightly.  If you receive a New Jersey traffic ticket, contact Sean Branigan, Attorney at Law for advice and representation.  We work with you so that you can avoid losing your license or paying hefty fines.

Our representation includes the vigorous handling of all traffic tickets in New Jersey, including speeding ticket defense.  Beating a speeding ticket in New Jersey is no easy task and your best bet is to hire a professional like Sean Branigan, Attorney at Law, a firm familiar with local laws and standards applicable to your case.  Speeding tickets and other driving violations can result in points being placed on your license which in turn can result in an increase in your insurance.  You may also face possible license suspension.  We vigorously defend you and try to minimize the impact of any New Jersey traffic ticket you receive.

When you receive a traffic violation in New Jersey, you have the choice to either appear, pay the fine, enter a not guilty plea, or to retain a New Jersey traffic violation attorney.  Should you appear, you may be offered a reduction in the points that would go on your license, in return for pleading guilty.  In the alternative, if you are not happy with the offer, you have the option to plead not guilty and request trial.  It is in your best interest to hire a traffic violation professional like Mr. Branigan in most cases to minimize the penalties against you.

Branigan & Associates will represent all your traffic violation problems including speeding tickets, traffic tickets, seat belt tickets, reckless driving traffic violations, drunk driving, DUI & DWI, careless driving, stop sign traffic tickets, driving with no insurance, driving while license suspended, and all other New Jersey moving violations.

Avoid having your license suspended or revoked. Avoid having your insurance premiums skyrocket. Seek out the counsel and representation of Branigan & Associates for all your New Jersey traffic tickets. You deserve a law firm with experience and knowledge and one that can give you straight answers to your questions in simple English.