New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

How To Build A Successful Defense

If you are dealing with a criminal charge, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney who has a strong history of getting results. At Nugent Law, our experienced lawyers provide aggressive representation, whether in federal, state or municipal court. High-profile clients have included police officers, attorneys and individuals alleged to be involved in organized crime. From our offices in Marlton and Linwood, we serve clients throughout southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Our founding attorney, Charles H. Nugent Jr., has been recognized by the New York Times as one of the 10 leaders of criminal defense law in southern and central New Jersey. He was also named by South Jersey Magazine as one of the best defense attorneys in South Jersey. Our firm also accepts all major credit cards for your convenience.

Our Team Is On Your Side

We are not here to judge you. Our criminal defense lawyers are on your side, dedicated to protecting your rights. We handle all felonies and misdemeanors, including:

Judges and prosecutors respect us, and know that if we are trying the case, we can win it. Our results-driven trial lawyers have won the large majority of cases that have gone to juries.

We also understand the importance of clearing your record, and our knowledgeable team can assist you with expungements.

You Are Not Alone — Call Now For Your Free Consultation

To set up your free initial consultation with a successful Marlton criminal defense lawyer, please call 856-596-9770 or send us a message online.

Can you give a brief overview of criminal law in New Jersey, including distinctions on the types of crimes?

In New Jersey, all criminal offenses are governed by the “New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice”, found in Title 2C of New Jersey statutes. Offenses in NJ are classified as either “crimes” or “disorderly person offenses”. Any offense for which a sentence of imprisonment in excess of six months is authorized is a “crime”. If an offense constitutes a crime, then the crime will be designated as either a first, second, third or fourth degree. Unlike most other states, New Jersey does not classify offenses as a “felony” or “misdemeanors”.

Any offense that has a sentence of imprisonment of six months or less constitutes a “disorderly persons offense” or “petty disorderly persons offense”. Disorderly person offenses and petty disorderly person offenses are petty offenses and are not crimes within the meaning of the New Jersey Constitution. In New Jersey, there is no right to indictment by grand jury or the right to a trial by jury on such offenses. A conviction for either a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense shall not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a crime.

Except for certain crimes like murder and a few others, if convicted of a crime of the first degree, the sentencing range is between 10 and 20 years state prison. If convicted of a second-degree crime, the sentencing range is between five and 10 years state prison. For both first and second degree crimes, there is a “presumption of incarceration”, which means that a convicted person will almost always go to state prison within the sentencing ranges. There are rare exceptions.

If convicted of a crime of the third degree crime, the sentencing range is between 3 and 5 years state prison. If convicted of a fourth degree crime, the sentencing range is a maximum of 18 months state prison. Both third and fourth degree crimes have a “presumption of no incarceration”, which means that in most circumstances probation, not jail, is a likely sentence. However, a person can be sentenced up to 364 days as a condition of probation. The presumption of no incarceration only applies if you have no prior criminal history.

Courts are authorized to sentence an individuals to jail, probation, may impose fines and restitution, require the performance of community service, sentence to a halfway house or other residential facility, or to imprisonment at night or on weekends as part of a work release program.

When a Court imposes a sentence it is required to consider “aggravating” and “mitigating circumstances” as found in NJSA 2C:44-1. If a Court finds that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, or that mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors, the court can sentence the person to the lower or higher ends of the sentencing range. In very limited circumstances, a Court can sentence an individual to a degree of crime lower than that for which they were convicted.

What should I do if the police contact me or want to talk to me?

As a general rule, if the police contact you you should respectfully decline to cooperate or give a statement until you have discussed your situation with an attorney. You have a constitutional right to remain silent, and law enforcement cannot force you to cooperate or give a statement. Exercising your right to remain silent is many times the best thing you can do.

Some of the strongest evidence that prosecutors can introduce into evidence against an accused is the accused’s own incriminating or inconsistent statement. After discussing your matter with an attorney, it may be in your best interest to cooperate and give a statement however you should not make the decision on your own. More often than not, when an individual cooperates and gives a statement, it backfires and becomes the most devastating evidence the prosecutor has because it is incriminating, inconsistent with the evidence or just not credible.

An experienced attorney can help you make the decision on whether to cooperate or not. Even if you decide that cooperation is in your best interests, having an attorney in the room when being questioned keeps the playing field level, and prevents law enforcement from trying to trick you or intimidate you.

How does a criminal defense attorney defend me?

There are many ways to successfully defend a client. Defending a client from criminal charges depends on the facts and takes experience, knowledge of the law, and good judgment.

First, it is always the prosecutor’s burden to prove an accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An accused does not have to prove anything. He or she does not have to present witnesses, does not have to cross-examine witnesses and does not have to present evidence because a prosecutor is required to prove each and every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt, including criminal intent. If the prosecutor is unable to meet that burden, the client has been successfully defended and a jury will not convict the client.

A winning defense can take many paths. If evidence was seized illegally, such as controlled dangerous substances in a motor vehicle stop, a defense can be mounted that the stop, search, or seizure was illegal, without probable cause and therefore unconstitutional. If a judge determines that a stop, search, or seizure was without probable cause the judge will “suppress” the evidence so that it cannot be used in the prosecution of the case. Without evidence, there is no case.

Sometimes presenting a successful defense is simply a matter of witness or evidence credibility. For example, a client is accused of doing something, like committing an assault. The client’s position may be that he acted in self-defense or defense of another. Those are affirmative defenses, which if credible, will raise a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the client. Another effective strategy is impeaching the credibility of the accuser. It may be that the accuser made prior inconsistent statements, doesn’t have a good recollection of events, or their statement simply doesn’t make sense. In almost every case, credibility is a critical factor, whether the credibility of law enforcement, an accuser, eyewitness, etc. If witnesses or evidence are not credible, a prosecution will fail.

Other times, a successful defense can be more complicated. For example, if scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will help a jury understand evidence or determine a fact in issue, an expert who is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may help a client successfully defend their case.

There is no one size fits all defense. Each case is unique on its own facts, and those facts will help determine what defense will best assist the client.

How can I tell if a lawyer is any good?

In the age of the internet, savvy marketing can mislead people into thinking the impressive website equals impressive lawyer. Too often, good marketing does not mean the lawyer behind the website is good.

There are many theories on what makes a criminal defense lawyer effective: experience, reputation, trial skills. None of these alone provides a complete answer. It takes a combination of skill and experience to be an effective criminal defense attorney. One of the most important skills is the ability to communicate well, both with the client and with judges, prosecutors, and juries. Ultimately, a client must feel comfortable with his or her criminal defense attorney, be able to connect with that attorney, and be confident that the attorney knows what he or she is doing. Read about the lawyer- their experience, what others say about him or her; results they have achieved, etc. Satisfy yourself that your lawyer understands you and knows how to advocate on your behalf. The best way to judge criminal defense attorneys is by their case outcomes. Results establish reputations, which is why good attorneys have good reputations.

At Nugent Law, we are confident that our results justify the reputation earned by this New Jersey criminal defense firm as a leader in criminal justice.

Can the police search me or my property?

This is a common question that does not have an easy answer. Sometimes they can, and sometimes they can’t. Generally, law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant. Any search without a warrant is presumptively invalid, unless there is an exception to the warrant requirement. Search warrants supported by probable cause and authorized by a judge are required to search a person or the person’s property. Probable cause is evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime will be located in the place to be searched. However, there are many exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Some exceptions include:

  • Search Incident to Arrest– Police are authorized to search a person, belongings and areas within his immediate control when the person is placed under arrest.
  • Investigative Detention and Frisk – The police may temporarily stop the person and ask questions without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicion to believe that an offense has been committed. The police must point to specific observations that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime or traffic violation may be occurring. Also, if police have a reasonable suspicion to believe that the person being detained is armed, the police may conduct a pat-down frisk to check for weapons.
  • Consent Search– Obtaining a warrant is a time consuming effort for police. Therefore, police usually ask for permission to search a person or his property without a warrant. People are free to consent, i.e., give their permission for police to search their property. Law enforcement are trained to obtain consent, and usually carry consent forms with them for the person to sign. People often think that they can’t refuse an officer’s request to search, or that the officer will make it difficult for them if they don’t consent. If the police ask for your permission its because they probably need it. If there was some other exception to the warrant requirement, they wouldn’t ask for your consent.
  • Plain View– Police are authorized to seize illegal items without a warrant when those items are in plain view, so long as the officer has the legal authority to be where he is.
  • Emergency or Exigent Circumstances– Police are authorized to enter areas and conduct searches without a warrant when they have a reasonable belief that the search is immediately necessary to protect person or property. The circumstances must truly be an emergency, and the emergency cannot be created by the conduct of the police.
  • Automobile Exception– If the police have probable cause to believe that contraband is in a car, they may search the car without a warrant.

At Nugent law, we are trained and educated in reviewing police and citizen and encounters, and determining whether a search of a person or property was constitutional. If a lawyer concludes that police violated their authority, the lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence, or seek other remedies authorized by law. Getting answers to the question of whether the police can do what they did is one reason why people hire the lawyers at Nugent Law.