The Law Office of Michael A. Grasso, Esq., LLC focuses its services on Criminal Defense, as it is the bedrock our reputation has been built. As a former law enforcement officer for the federal government Mr. Grasso knows exactly what is necessary to counter investigate your prosecution. In gauging the style of approach your defense demands, your case is broken down into three crucial stages by examining the following:
- The Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause necessary to encounter you, your motor vehicle, or your premises.
- The Search and Seizure of your person, motor vehicle or premises.
- The Credibility, Veracity and Admissibility of all witnesses’ statements and evidence to be used against you at trial.
The criminal procedure may be the most constitutionally invasive experience you may endure in your lifetime. That is why choosing the right attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.
It is most important to understand the tracking of a criminal procedure in the Superior Court of New Jersey-Criminal Part. The following demonstrates a breakdown of criminal procedure in New Jersey:
Formal Criminal Complaint
When an investigation ensues, and you have been charged with violating the Criminal Code of New Jersey (Section 2C). The service of process for a formal criminal complaint may take anywhere from a few minutes (i.e. a disorderly persons offense) to over a year’s time (i.e. due to the complexity and number of witnesses that must be interviewed by the county prosecutor or attorney general’s office). In any event, you will be served with the complaint and should provide this document along with your bail release form to your attorney immediately. An arrest, fingerprinting and photographing may or may not occur conditioned upon the surrounding facts of the case. Nonetheless, you shall be served by a law enforcement agency directly or through the U.S. Post Office.Motions
Motions may be filed with the criminal case management office at the Superior Court of New Jersey any time after a formal criminal complaint has been served upon you. Whether your matter has been presented to grand jury or is on for case status conference (csc) or trial phase of your procedure, motions may be heard to protect your legal interests. It is a formal request for specific relief sought to uphold your constitutional rights as a citizen. Such motions may seek suppression of evidence in the form of search and seizure, witnesses’ statements against your interest, sever co-defendants, or dismiss your matter outright. Other motions firm up timelines for the state to produce discovery particulars supporting its case. Most motions will be conferenced with the court thus indicating to all parties the likelihood of the continuation of your prosecution. If a motion is denied your attorney may file an Interlocutory Appeal and request a stay on your present prosecution or sentencing after weighing out the potential length and complexity of your matter.Pre-Indictment Conference (PIC)
This is a procedure that was recently added to the criminal case tracking system within our county level courts so as to allocate clients many options prior to their case being presented to a grand jury (a group of 23 peers who determine whether probable cause exists for an indictment to be handed down against you). Your attorney will have the first available opportunity to examine your police report (narrative) as well as all supporting evidence that will be used to support your prosecution. You may be eligible for the following: Dismissal with Prejudice (outright dismissal); Direct admission into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI); Guilty Plea as condition to admission into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI); Guilty Plea to a lesser offense. PTI is a diversionary program offered by the county prosecutor’s office as a clean way of disposing your case as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Eligibility for Expungement is six (6) months after successful termination of PTI; two (2) years for municipal ordinances; Five (5) years for Petty Disorderly Persons offense (PDP) or Disorderly Persons Offense (DP); Five (5) years or greater for any indictable offense (i.e. 4th Degree; 3rd Degree; and some 2nd Degree). Please know the grading of your offense may prohibit you from ever expunging your criminal case history (CCH). Also, the five (5) year rule on expunging an indictable offense has now been relaxed and courts review same on a sliding scale commensurate to your specific case history.Arraignment/Case Status Conference
This is the first significant stage of your representation in the event your case does not qualify for PIC or in the alternative you decline any offers at PIC. Your attorney will enter a Not Guilty Plea on your behalf, waive a formal reading of the indictment onto the record, apprise the court as to the status of any outstanding discovery and serve you with your next court date. It is also an excellent opportunity to dispose a case in the event after due inspection, the state’s proofs would not support a substantive prosecution against you at a motion hearing or jury trial.Case Status Conference (CSC)
This is where your case is discussed in a confidential setting, such as a judge’s chambers, including but not limited to the involvement of the following figureheads: your defense counsel, assistant prosecutor or deputy attorney general, any probation or parole officers, team leader to judge, judge’s law clerk and His or Her Honor. The goal of this meeting is to determine whether your case will go to plea cut-off or be disposed by virtue of a dismissal or plea to a lesser offense. CSC may be given several adjournments as to allow both sides to gather the relevant proofs necessary to obtain a favorable plea or proceed to plea cut off. You are in charge of directing your attorney whether to proceed to trial after you have been advised of all options and relevant risks versus rewards.Plea Cut Off
All options have been exhausted and no agreement exists between your attorney and the state. Papers are then entered onto the record indicating all legal motions to be moved upon before the court, the number of witnesses and the expected length of jury trial. All previous offers come off the table at this stage of the proceeding.Jury Trial
Voi Dire in French means “quest for truth”. The first proceeding at trial is selecting a jury panel (voi dire) from a group of randomly selected citizens “the array”. Once a jury has been selected the state will commence with its case in chief (state’s contentions); the defense is permitted to cross examine all state’s witnesses; the state rests; the defense proceeds with its case in chief (defense contentions); the state is permitted its cross examination; the defense rests; the state closes; the defense closes; the state may be afforded a second closing as the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) is on it; the jury is excused to deliberate; the jury, once ready, renders its verdict: a.) the judge enters a not guilty onto the record and the client is free to go; or b.) the judge schedules sentencing if the client has been found guilty of one of the counts of indictment. Any motion may be moved upon during your trial in the event a respective issue and/or opportunity to do so avails.Sentencing
Prior to the judge sentencing a client, a pre-sentence investigation report is authored. Your assigned pre-sentencing officer interviews you to gather further data to be presented to the court in determining what sentence is most appropriate for you. During the sentencing hearing the state will emphasize aggravating factors and the defense mitigating. The judge shall give weight to both sides and render a sentencing decision. At this point a Judgment of Conviction is drafted by the administrative body of the court to memorialize the finality of your case.Appeal
All citizens sentenced by The Superior Court of New Jersey have forty five (45) days to appeal the court’s decision; twenty (20) days for municipal court. Your Appeal is a meticulous process as it is being received and reviewed by The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey (Superior Court for municipal matters). It is suggested that you hire an experienced counsel who is well versed in the procedure and standard of review if and when proceeding with this application as you only have one opportunity to succeed in its filing as time and accuracy are of the essence. Municipal Court Appeals are less cumbersome and are filed and heard before the Criminal Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey.Post-Conviction Relief
In the event you believe their exists an ineffective representation on behalf of your defense attorney and/or the court proceeded in error and a period not exceeding five (5) years has passed, you are eligible to file a Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) Application and thus request relief in the form of a dismissal or remand with further instruction. In the event the statute of limitations has tolled you may then still be eligible in the event you can proof excusable neglect and show good cause for its lateness. Again, seek competent guidance before proceeding with this option.
Our firm has a proven track record for over a decade of turning hopeless legal prosecutions into not guilty verdicts, very favorable pleas, or just an outright dismissal.
Suppression Hearings/Trials: 500+; Disorderly Conduct; Simple/Aggravated Assault; Robbery; Burglary; Possession Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS); Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute; School Zone Distribution; Interstate Drug Trafficking/ Conspiracy; CDS Manufacturing/ Distribution; Possession of Weapon for Unlawful Purpose; DWI/DUI; Vehicular Homicide/ Manslaughter; Carjacking; Eluding; Resisting Arrest; Receiving Stolen Property; Official Misconduct; Embezzlement; Tampering; Mortgage/Bank Loan Fraud; Theft; Shoplifting