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Jury Trials are Now Suspended in New Jersey

The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an order on Nov. 16, 2020, suspending all criminal and civil jury trials as well as in-person grand jury proceedings. The order comes in response to increasingly elevated cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections throughout the state.

In-person jury trials were previously suspended for six months as a result of the pandemic. A backlog of thousands of cases resulted. In the summer, the Supreme Court opted to allow jury trials to proceed in a hybrid format, mainly virtual jury selection, and socially distanced in-person trials.

The Supreme Court has recognized the harm done to defendants who have been detained without indictment when trials were shut down due to the pandemic. A pilot program allowing virtual grand jury proceedings was established in the spring. The Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey (ACDL) were critical of the program. It was concerned that lack of access to technology could unconstitutionally exclude minority, poor, and elderly jurors. Since that time, the judiciary has worked to provide necessary technology so qualified jurors can participate. To date, virtual grand juries have been convened in all 21 counties.

Criminal Suspects Need Adequate Representation

The role of a criminal defense lawyer is always a critical one. A lawyer advocates for their client in order to make sure they get a fair and expeditious trial. Everyone charged with a crime is entitled to be represented by legal counsel. Sometimes, the accused is unable to afford a lawyer; in New Jersey, a lawyer may be assigned to a case. The accused may alternatively hire a private lawyer to represent them. A criminal defense lawyer will review the charges and interview the client. They will explain the nature of the charges, evaluate evidence, and explain what they believe, based on their experience and knowledge of the crime.

Why is Jury Selection Important?

Effective jury selection is an important step in the process. The criminal defense lawyer will seek to rule out potential jurors who seem to be either biased against the defendant or likely to find guilt.

Plea Agreement or Trial

The lawyer may suggest entering into a plea agreement or trial. At trial, the defense lawyer’s role is to decide how to present the case, including choosing any witnesses, cross-examining witnesses, and making strategic decisions. In addition, the lawyer will advise as to whether it may or may not be advantageous to waive the right to a jury trial.

It may be possible and advantageous to enter into a plea agreement to a lesser charge. A criminal defense lawyer will negotiate with the prosecuting lawyer on such an agreement. In the event a defendant either goes to trial or enters into a plea agreement, the lawyer will also be able to inform and advise their client during the sentencing phase.

Criminal law is complex, so it is vital for someone accused of a crime to be properly represented. It is even more important now that court rules and proceedings are changing at a rapid pace while the pandemic continues.

Our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Agre & St. John provide effective and compassionate criminal defense services. We pride ourselves on keeping up to date on recent developments in criminal defense law. Contact us online or call us at 856-428-7797 for an initial consultation today. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.

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