The First Assistant Prosecutor supervises the following sections.
Somerset County uses central filing and screening of all criminal complaints as a method to expedite prosecutions. During the screening process it is the duty of an assistant prosecutor to ensure that a complaint is signed for an offense supported by the evidence. The Intake Screening Section is responsible for operating the central complaint filing system. This section consists of assistant prosecutors and secretaries. ( All assistant prosecutors assist in screening cases as the need arises.) The attorneys screen cases prior to filing a criminal complaint and provide police officers with supervision, legal advice, and direction as to necessary additional investigation. The assistant prosecutors decide what charges will be filed. A primary mission of the section is to have all cases in proper order for assignment to the Adult Trial Section for Grand Jury presentation as soon as possible. This section handles the file until arraignment. The file is then reviewed by the supervising Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor and assigned to a trial attorney.
The Trial Section is staffed by 21 assistant prosecutors. A vertical prosecution system exists in Somerset County. Assistant prosecutors are assigned indictable cases, i.e., first, second, third, and fourth degree crimes. After the initial review and preparation by the Intake Screening Section the assigned attorney is responsible for the complete handling of the case through the grand jury, arraignment status conferences, pre-trial conferences, motions, plea bargains and criminal trial, and any post-trial proceedings.
The paralegal unit consists of six paralegals all of whom hold college degrees. The paralegals are assigned to work with assistant prosecutors to prepare cases for juvenile court, grand jury and trial. Their duties include: follow-up investigation, criminal history and DMV checks, victim/witness contact, name changes and expungements, draft routine pleadings, prepare speedy trial reports and track statistics, coordinate weekly trials with the court, maintain the office library and assist during trial.
Sex Crimes/Family Protection Unit
The Sex Crimes/Family Protection Unit consists of two attorneys. All 21 assistant prosecutors are assigned to prosecute sex crimes, child abuse, and juvenile and domestic violence crimes. The legal staff is also responsible for screening cases suitable for prosecution. One of the attorneys is assigned to handle all Megan's Law tiering, notifications, and trials. These prosecuting attorneys also appear at other public service events in an attempt to take a proactive approach in educating law enforcement and the general public on these issues.
The mission of the Somerset County Juvenile Unit is threefold. First, when a juvenile commits a delinquent act, the Juvenile Unit is to ensure that the public safety is protected. Second, it is to hold the juvenile accountable for his or her act(s). And third, it is to seek to contribute to the rehabilitation of the juvenile so that he or she can grow into a resourceful and productive individual who will contribute positively to society.
What is delinquency? It is an act committed by someone under the age of 18, that would be a crime, a disorderly persons offense, a petty disorderly persons offense or a violation of a regulation or a municipal ordinance, if committed by an adult.
The Juvenile Unit screens all juvenile complaints. The complaintant (police officer) completes his or her case and then forwards it to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office for review. The Assistant Prosecutor screens the case thoroughly, authorizing the appropriate actions, whether it is charges, diversion, intake or waiver for trial as adult. The Prosecutor's Office prepares the complaint and a date is then scheduled for the juvenile to appear in Superior Court, Law Division, Family Part, to either plead "delinquent" or "not delinquent". At this time, the Assistant Prosecutor confers with the juvenile's attorney regarding plea negotiations. If the juvenile chooses to plead not delinquent, the case then proceeds to a hearing, similar to an adult trial, where the State must prove the juvenile delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile hearing is held before a Superior Court Judge who acts as the finder of fact. If the juvenile is found to be delinquent, the Superior Court Judge will then impose an appropriate disposition upon the juvenile. This disposition can range from incarceration or probation to community service and restitution, as well as other punitive measures.
Domestic Violence Unit
There are three prosecuting attorneys who staff this unit. They prosecute cases of criminal contempt, in which a defendant is charged with violating the terms of a domestic violence restraining order; determine whether or not to initiate forfeiture proceedings pertaining to weapons sized by the police following a domestic violence incident; provide legal advice to law enforcement personnel regarding the interpretation and enforcement of domestic violence laws; and attend conferences/symposiums focusing on the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases.
The Appellate Section of the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office is made up of one full-time appellate attorney and six assistant prosecutors who along with their other duties, are also assigned to handle the office's appellate matters. The Appellate Section represents the State in the Superior Court, Appellate Division, and the New Jersey Supreme Court on cases arising out of Somerset County. This includes responding to or making motions for leave to appeal, writing and filing briefs in opposition to a criminal defendant's appeal from his or her indictable conviction and filing the State's response to those defendants' petitions for certification to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The Appellate Section also handles appeals from municipal court convictions, which are heard in the Superior Court, Law Division, the Superior Court, Appellate Division, and the New Jersey Supreme Court. Additionally, when a defendant seeks post-conviction relief in the Superior Court, Law Division, the Appellate Section will often file an opposition brief. Finally, when it is assigned to do so by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, the Appellate Section opposes a prisoner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court.