You had big plans for Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday, you imagined enjoying dinner with family, then catching the football game.
You didn’t plan on being arrested – and Thanksgiving could not be a worse time, as the judicial process can be prolonged during holidays. If you don’t act quickly, you could end up spending your entire holiday weekend (or longer) in jail.
Arrest and Booking
An arrest can be a traumatic experience. You are placed in the back of a patrol car and driven to the police station. During processing, you are fingerprinted and photographed and your belongings are confiscated.
Release on a Summons
For minor offenses, such as driving on a suspended license or public intoxication, the police officer may opt to give you a notice to appear instead of arresting you. You remain free, but must appear in court on the date indicated.
Do you have a criminal history? What is the nature and seriousness of the offense for which you are now being charged? Have you ever failed to appear in court in the past? These factors determine whether you will be held in jail or released on a summons immediately.
Being Held in Jail
You may be issued a jail uniform and placed in a holding cell. If held, within 24 hours (not including Sunday or a Holiday) you’ll have an appearance in court. If the prosecutor seeks detention, you’ll be held for another 3 days (not including Sunday or Holidays), at which point you’ll have a detention hearing to determine whether you are to be released or held UNTIL the case is resolved. Here’s the problem: you were arrested on a holiday, which means you may be looking at an extended stay in jail.
Fortunately, you are permitted to call your attorney. A New Jersey criminal defense attorney is your best shot at being released before the weekend is over.
Your First Appearance
You appear in court for the first time during the aptly named first appearance within 24 hours. Sundays and holidays are excluded, so an arrest over the Thanksgiving holiday could delay your first court appearance.
If the prosecutor seeks detention, you will be held for another three days, until you appear at a detention hearing. Again, since Sundays and holidays are excluded, you may be held for much longer if arrested during Thanksgiving. At the detention hearing, the court decides whether to release you or hold you until your case is resolved.
Should You Accept a Plea Bargain?
After the first two initial hearings, the prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain for a misdemeanor offense. Although it might be tempting, you should discuss your decision with your attorney first. Even a minor misdemeanor may have serious consequences on your future. Probation may seem more palatable than jail, but could involve onerous and expensive conditions. Furthermore, the prosecution may not have enough evidence to convict you of a crime. You don’t want to spend additional time in jail, but you should consider the big picture.
After a thorough review of your case, your criminal defense lawyer may negotiate an equitable plea deal that reduces or avoids further jail time. Your lawyer may also negotiate for a lesser charge or alternative sentencing. For example, if your charges are drug related, your lawyer may negotiate drug court. Your lawyer may instead begin to prepare your case for trial and hold the prosecution to its duty to prove you committed the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested?
A New Jersey criminal lawyer with Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. is available to help you this holiday season. Call us right away at 1-877-435-6371 or contact us online if you are arrested for DUI or any other offense during Thanksgiving or over the holiday weekend to schedule a free, confidential consultation. For your convenience, we will visit you in jail.