Arraignment on Indictment / Arraignment Status Conference
The first appearance made by the defendant before a Superior Court Judge after indictment. The Assistant Prosecutor will advise the defendant of the indictment. The Judge reviews the indictment and discovery with the defendant. The defendant, through his/her attorney, then enters a guilty or not guilty plea to the charges. See Post Indictment Arraignment.
Once a complaint is issued, defendants are either arrested or issued a summons to appear in Superior Court on a first appearance. At the First Appearance incarcerated defendants can be released subject to conditions set by the court or held without bail because the state is seeking to detain the defendant without bail until trial. First Appearance hearings are held within 24 hours of arrest or issuance of a summons complaint for incarcerated defendants. First appearances are held no more than 60 days after arrest or issuance of a summons for non-incarcerated defendants. At the first hearing in Municipal Court, defendants can enter a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea. If defendants plead “not guilty”, the matter will be scheduled for a trial, within 60 days. A defendant who pleads ‘not guilty’ may plead or be found guilty at a later time.
A 23-person jury that hears evidence presented by an Assistant Prosecutor and the testimony of witnesses, to determine whether or not there is a sufficient basis (probable cause) for a formal charge to be issued, (sufficient evidence) to formally charge (indict) the defendant. The Grand Jury may vote for a (1) True Bill, (2) Remand, or (3) No Bill.
A true bill triggers further proceedings in the Criminal Superior Court. If a majority finds the evidence to be insufficient to indict, the grand jury enters a no bill and the charge(s) are dismissed. The jury may, however, decide to charge the defendant with a less serious offense, to be heard in municipal court. In this instance, the offense has been downgraded or remanded. The accused must appear in municipal court to face a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons charge.
A process in which the assistant prosecutor and the defendant, through his/her attorney, attempt to reach a plea agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some or all of the charges and avoid the need for a trial. Crime victims have the right to consult with the prosecuting authority prior to the conclusion of plea negotiations.
The first plea offer by the assistant prosecutor may be provided to the defense attorney as early as the Pre-Indictment Conference phase.
Defendants who are convicted of crimes may appeal their cases to the Appellate Division of Superior Court, which reviews trial records and decides if decisions made by Judges in the Superior Court are fair and equitable. Defendants may file motions, or requests to their sentencing Judge to have sentences modified, or for other relief.
This hearing is scheduled 45 days from the time of the First Appearance. The hearing is an opportunity for Assistant Prosecutor to discuss with the defense attorney any pre-indictment dispositions (plea resolution). At this hearing the Judge will inform the defendant that there is a drug court program and how an application may be made.
Criminal Division case supervisors perform pre-sentence investigations for criminal Judges who render sentences on all convicted defendants. The pre-sentence investigation report is designed to assist a Judge in weighing the circumstances of the crime and a defendant’s criminal and juvenile record and overall life situation to the severity of the sentence.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) is a diversionary program which permits certain defendants, generally first-time offenders, with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process to avoid formal prosecution and conviction by entering into a term of court supervised community living, often with counseling or other support. PTI seeks to render early rehabilitative services, when such services can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior. Crime victims will be advised of a defendant’s application to PTI and will be given the opportunity to provide their input to the assigned Assistant Prosecutor.
The sentencing hearing is the disposition/punishment phase of the criminal matter before a Superior Court Judge. A sentence can include prison, probation, restitution, community service, mental health counseling, fine & penalties or any combination of these. This is the hearing where a victim has the opportunity to submit a written and/or oral victim impact statement to the sentencing judge.
There are two status conference hearings, with the possible exception of a third conference at the Judge’s discretion. The first status conference is called the Initial Case Disposition Conference; the second conference is called the Final Case Disposition Conference and the third, the Discretionary Case Disposition Conference. These hearings are public hearings where the defendant with his/her attorney and an Assistant Prosecutor appear before a Superior Court Judge.