Superior Court Defense in New Jersey

If you are charged with a serious crime such as robbery, theft, selling drugs, or a violent offense in Passaic County, your charges will most likely be heard in Superior Court. The general trial court in New Jersey is Superior Court. It has jurisdiction to handle serious criminal charges and civil matters, as well as some charges transferred from lower courts. Indictments handed down by grand juries are criminal charges that are heard in Superior Court.

If you are facing criminal charges in Superior Court in Passaic County, a conviction will result in serious consequences and make it harder to get employment. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights and freedom. The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have extensive experience in the New Jersey criminal justice system. We know how the system works and what really happens when defendants go on trial in Superior Court. Most of our attorneys are former prosecutors and public defenders who have worked in courthouses across the state.

Our Passaic County criminal defense attorneys embrace the principle that each individual facing criminal charges deserves a strong legal defense, and that the prosecutors have the burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt. We are aggressive in defending our clients’ rights and challenging every facet of the prosecution’s case.

If you need a criminal defense attorney, contact an experienced Passaic criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today.

What is a New Jersey Superior Court?

Superior Court is sometimes referred to as the trial court because it is the court where jury trials are held. Each of New Jersey’s 21 counties has a Superior Court. The courts are grouped into judicial districts, which consist of one or more counties in New Jersey and are called vicinages. New Jersey Vicinage 11 serves as the Passaic Vicinage.

The divisions of the Superior Court include criminal court, civil court, family court, tax court and an appellate division. The decisions of the criminal court, civil court, family court and tax court may be appealed to the appellate division.

The Superior Court criminal division of the Passaic Vicinage includes eight superior court judges who preside at trials. Superior Court judges in New Jersey are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate to seven-year terms.

The Superior Court handles criminal cases involving indictable offenses as well as appeals of lesser charges. The court also hears appeals from municipal court of disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses as well as traffic offenses and violations of municipal ordinances.

A criminal charge can result from a complaint issued by a law enforcement agency or a citizen. A complaint will specify the reason for the charge and refer to criminal offenses listed in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.

Once a complaint has been issued, an individual is either arrested or issued a summons to appear in court for a first appearance before a judge. Do not ignore a summons. If you fail to appear, a court will issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are arrested, by law, your first appearance must occur within 48 hours of your confinement in the Passaic County jail. Most first appearances occur at the county jail. During the first appearance, the judge will advise you of your right to legal counsel. You should contact an experienced defense lawyer if you haven’t before now. If you do not have an attorney fighting for your interests at the first appearance, a prosecutor may file a detention motion to deny you bail. You should contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to represent you.

The judge will determine whether the arrested individual should be granted pretrial release and set the terms of release and bail if appropriate. If you have strong ties to the community and no prior criminal record, you may be eligible for release on your own recognizance, without posting a bond. A court appearance is required to answer criminal charges, such as shoplifting, theft, assault, auto theft, harassment or drug possession.

A person can only be arrested if there are reasonable grounds to believe the individual committed a criminal offense. This is known as probable cause, and a skilled criminal defense lawyer can sometimes get the court to dismiss charges based on a finding of lack of probable cause for an arrest.

Pre-Indictment Events

If you are facing an indictable offense and do not have a criminal record and you meet other requirements, you may be eligible for a diversion program known as Pretrial Intervention or PTI. This is one way to avoid a formal prosecution on criminal charges. Only third-degree and fourth-degree offenses are eligible for pretrial intervention.

The process requires an application, an evaluation by a probation officer, support of the prosecutor and approval by a Superior Court judge. The primary benefit is you avoid having a criminal record if you successfully complete the program, which typically lasts one year.

Our attorneys have helped many clients enter Pretrial Intervention to resolve a criminal change. We can help you determine whether it is an appropriate option for you. It often requires submission to random drug testing, performance of community service, and other requirements. Once you complete the program, your charges are dismissed. It’s important to receive legal guidance from a knowledgeable defense attorney so you understand what to expect and have the best chance for admission to the program if you choose to pursue it.


Once a complaint is filed, it is sent to the Passaic County prosecutor’s office for review and a decision about how to proceed. The prosecutor’s office may dismiss the case, send it to municipal court, or pursue prosecution in Superior Court.

If you do not receive pretrial diversion, or have charges downgraded, the Passaic County prosecutor will decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for an indictment. The grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to issue a true bill requiring a person to face criminal charges. That leads to further proceedings in the criminal division of Superior Court.

Criminal Charges in Superior Court

The criminal offenses heard in Superior Court are more serious than those handled by Municipal Court. One of the strategies our attorneys use is trying to keep potentially indictable offenses in municipal court, where the maximum punishments are less onerous.

An individual convicted in Superior Court faces more severe consequences.

Crimes are classified from fourth degree to first degree, with first being the most serious:

  • A fourth-degree crime carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
  • A third-degree crime may result in a prison sentence of three to five years.
  • A second-degree crime has a potential prison sentence of five to 10 years.
  • A first-degree crime carries a potential punishment of 10 years to 20 years in prison.

You have a right to a trial by jury, but you may choose to waive the right to a jury trial and have a trial before a Superior Court judge.

Depending on the seriousness of the crime, a Superior Court judge may impose a range of punishments from criminal fines and supervised probation to a prison sentence of a year or longer. When an individual is convicted of a first- or second-degree crime, the presumption is that he or she will serve time in prison.

Plea Agreements

Not every criminal case goes to trial. The majority of cases are resolved by a plea agreement without a jury trial. A plea bargain can be negotiated before a trial or during a trial. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have negotiated thousands of plea agreements. Our skill in negotiating a plea agreement can protect you from facing the most severe punishments that Passaic County Superior Court may impose.

Typically, in a plea agreement, a defendant pleads guilty to a reduced charge and the prosecutor recommends that the judge to impose a sentence that is less severe than the defendant would receive if found guilty by a jury. The Superior Court Judge is not required to accept the agreement, however.

The options available to you will depend on the facts of your particular case, your prior record and the skill of your attorneys. Any person charged with a criminal offense and facing a hearing in Superior Court in Passaic County should have the representation of an experienced lawyer.

Selecting a Passaic County Defense Attorney to Assist You

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Passaic County and your future is at stake, your selection of the right defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has one of the largest and most experienced legal defense teams in the New Jersey. Our attorneys have handled thousands of criminal charges across the state and some have a background as prosecutors. We have the knowledge and the resources to handle any first-, second-, third- or fourth-degree crime.

Jonathan Marshall has been recognized by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys as among the Top 10 criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey. Call today to find out how we can assist you.