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Simple Concepts
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Simple Concepts
Effective Representation
schedule free consultation here

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

Varano Law’s New Jersey Criminal Law Practice

Our attorneys represent clients throughout the State of New Jersey who have been arrested and/or charged with indictable offenses (crimes), disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors), petty disorderly persons offenses, and ordinance violations. We also represent clients in administrative proceedings with employers or state boards resulting from an arrest or conviction.

All indictable offenses (crimes) are within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of New Jersey and are heard in the county where the alleged crime occurred. Disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors), petty disorderly persons offenses, and ordinance violations are within the jurisdiction of the municipal courts in New Jersey.

Being arrested can be a stressful time in a client’s life. The consequences can include incarceration, substantial fines, loss of employment, a criminal record, loss of driving privileges, and other devastating results, which is why it is essential to hire the right attorney to defend you. The attorneys at our firm represent clients charged with indictable offenses, disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses, and borough ordinances violations throughout the State of New Jersey, appearing in every county and municipal court.

Where do we begin?

At the initial intake, we will gather the necessary facts and information to start building your defense. We then evaluate all aspects of your case, including reviewing charging documents such as a complaint, warrant, summons, indictment, etc. We will also request any discovery from the prosecutor, including videos, photographs, emails, writings, lab reports, witness statements, etc. Our firm has also utilized the services of a private investigator, if necessary, to obtain/preserve evidence that may help in your defense. Remember, in any criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.  The prosecutor must prove every element of each offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury of your peers in the superior court or a judge in the municipal court.  The burden never shifts to you. A criminal defendant does not need to prove his/her innocence; the burden always stays with the prosecutor.

How do we begin?

Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us today at (973) 256-1414 or email us at to schedule a free consultation. If you have been arrested and/or charged with any crime or offense in New Jersey, you should seek legal assistance from one of our attorneys as soon as possible. Even if you have not yet been charged, but have been contacted by law enforcement, you should immediately seek legal assistance to ensure your constitutional rights are protected, including your right to remain silent. Our attorneys represent defendants in all twenty-one counties of New Jersey and every municipal court and are here to help you today!

If you or a loved one are incarcerated in a county jail after business hours or on a weekend, have someone email to schedule an immediate visit at the county jail.

Types of Criminal Offenses in New Jersey

Crimes charged as first, second, third, or fourth-degree crimes are heard in the various county superior courts.

Examples of First Degree Cases

Defendants charged with crimes in the first degree face a presumption of incarceration from 10 to 20 years or more. Defendants also face fines of upwards of $200,000. Most charges resulting in convictions in the first-degree range are not expungable. This means they are unlikely to be erased at a later time unless a defendant is eligible for a clean slate expungement pursuant to the laws of the State of New Jersey.

Examples of Second Degree Cases

  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Aggravated assault
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Certain weapons offenses
  • Robbery
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Extortion
  • Theft related offenses
  • Strangulation
  • Health care fraud

Defendants charged with crimes in the second degree face a presumption of incarceration between five and ten  years in New Jersey State Prison and face fines of up to $150,000.

Examples of Third Degree Cases

  • Aggravated assault
  • Strangulation
  • Possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • Theft related offenses
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Terroristic threats
  • Stalking

Defendants charged with crimes in the third degree do not face a presumption of incarceration if the matter is a first offense. Defendants not charged with a first offense may be incarcerated for up to five years with fines upwards of $15,000. Certain defendants may be eligible for probation or for enrollment and entry into New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program (“PTI”).

Examples of Fourth Degree Cases

  • Firearms offenses
  • Certain drug offenses
  • Contempt of a temporary or final restraining order
  • Contempt of court
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Stalking
  • Lewdness

Defendants charged with crimes in the fourth degree do not face a presumption of incarceration, but may face up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison.

Juvenile Cases       

Our office also represents youthful offenders in the State of New Jersey who have been charged with juvenile offenses. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, hears all juvenile matters. Individuals under the age of 18 may still be charged as adults if the allegations meet specific criteria. Parents should never allow their kids to speak with law enforcement without the presence of competent and experienced legal counsel. Remember, like on TV, anything you say against yourself can and will be used against you at the time of trial. Oftentimes, the worst evidence in any case is the statement or evidence provided directly by the defendant to the police.

Many diversionary programs are available to juveniles to minimize the impact of any charges on the juvenile’s future.  Some of these programs are available even before the juvenile has been formally charged with an offense.  So, if there is an incident or law enforcement has contacted the parents or guardians of a juvenile, it is important to have an attorney immediately.  Our attorneys are thoroughly familiar with these programs and often seek to take advantage of these programs early on in the process.

The Arrest

State and local law enforcement in New Jersey have the authority to charge you with any crimes in the first, second, third, or fourth degree, resulting in your case being heard in various county/state courts in New Jersey. If you are charged with disorderly persons offenses or non-indictable offenses, those matters are typically heard in the municipal courts of New Jersey. If you are charged with indictable offenses, non-indictable offenses, and even motor vehicle offenses, those matters are typically heard at the county/state level.

Pre-Trial Detention Hearings/Bail

In 2017, the State of New Jersey implemented bail reform, which changed how defendants are released after being arrested with a first, second, third, or fourth-degree crime in New Jersey. Under the old system, defendants could post a monetary bail to be released prior to trial. Under the new law, if a defendant is arrested on a complaint warrant, the judge setting bail will review a public safety assessment (PSA) to decide whether the defendant should be released or detained pending trial.  The PSA assesses the risk that the defendant will commit another offense, will commit a new violent crime, will pose a danger to the alleged victim or the public, and/or will fail to appear in court. The PSA will generate a score from one to six, with one being the least serious and six being the most serious, and assess whether there is a risk. A defendant who is classified with a low score is usually released. A defendant scoring higher on a PSA may result in the prosecutor filing a motion for pre-trial detention, which the state must do within 48 hours of your arrest. A judge may release you on your own recognizance, impose monetary bail, or impose conditions you must abide by as a condition of your pre-trial release.

For a court to order pre-trial detention, the court must be convinced by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant should be incarcerated throughout the entire case. A court will consider the nature and circumstances of the charged offense, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s history and personal characteristics, etc.

Pre-Indictment Conference

Before presenting your case to a grand jury, the prosecutor and the court typically schedule a pre-indictment conference. At the pre-indictment conference, the prosecutor will likely offer you a pre-trial plea offer and present  the discovery (evidence) that he/she has against you with regard to the charges alleged. If the matter is not resolved at a pre-indictment conference, the matter will likely be referred to the grand jury for direct presentment.


A New Jersey grand jury comprises 23 citizens who must determine by a majority vote whether probable cause exists to formally bring back an indictment against you to stand trial. A criminal defendant has no constitutional right to a grand jury proceeding. As such, a prosecutor presents their case to a panel of 23 jurors without you, your attorney, or a judge. A prosecutor must present any exculpatory evidence at the time of the presentation, or the state risks fighting a motion to dismiss an indictment at a later time.

If a grand jury returns an indictment against you, you will proceed to arraignment and ultimately to a trial. This is called returning a “true bill.” If the Prosecutor does not obtain a majority vote, they must drop the charge against you and dismiss your case. That is called a “no bill.”


In New Jersey, you have a right to go to a trial before a jury of your peers for an indictable charge. To be convicted of a crime, all 12 jurors must find that the prosecutor proved every element of each and every offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

For a municipal court violation, you have a trial to a bench trial before a municipal court judge wherein the municipal prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Types of Disorderly Persons Offenses/Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses

  • Simply assault
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Possession of CDS
  • Petty theft
  • Loitering for narcotics
  • Wandering
  • Prostitution
  • Harassment


The impact of an arrest and/or a conviction on your record can have a devastating impact on your employability or other aspects of your life. Certain offenses, including indictable offenses, can now potentially be expunged. Contact our office today for a free consultation to determine whether you are eligible to apply for an expungement to erase any record of your arrest, guilty plea, and/or conviction.

Why is the Law Offices of Steven A. Varano, P.C. your choice?

When you turn to the skilled and dedicated team at the Law Offices of Steven A. Varano, P.C., you are gaining the experience you need to defend your case. With more than 90 years of combined experience, we are ready to ensure a successful outcome in your situation.

  • We approach every case with tenacity and do not back down.
  • We will review all of the evidence that the state has against you.
  • We will discuss potentially retaining a private investigator to question witnesses and gather and/or preserve evidence.
  • We will determine all of your defenses, including the potential need to suppress evidence, file dispositive motions, etc.
  • Discuss the potential admissibility into a diversionary program such as pre-trial intervention, conditional dismissal, conditional discharge, or even drug court.
  • We focus on our clients, making ourselves available to answer questions and concerns 24 hours a day.