There are a few courts in New Jersey that utilize a Central Judicial Processing Court as both an administrative tool and case review process in the initial stages of a indictable criminal matter. Two such vicinages are Essex and Hudson County.
If the CJP court is utilized, the defendant’s first appearance will take place there. There will be a judge and a prosecutor. Prior to your appearance, a prosecutor will have reviewed the file and made a determination as to whether the case will remain in the superior court, be downgraded and remanded to the municipal court, sent to the grand jury, administratively dismissed, etc. This is not when your case is going to be resolved. There will be no trial on that day, no plea discussions, no opportunity for the defendant to present defenses. The judge will simply tell you what you have been charged with and provide you with a new court date, time and location, unless there is a decision to take one of the above listed actions, such as downgrade and remand to the municipal court, which will also result in the court possibly providing new court date information.
It is my opinion that attorney involvement in these proceedings and prior thereto is very important. In many instances, I have been able to speak with the screening prosecutor prior to the determination as to whether the case will be downgraded. This may occur on the day of the CJP appearance or before. In some instances, those discussions have resulted in the initial downgrading of criminal offenses. The subject of these discussions usually deals with the elements of the offense as charged, the facts as alleged, and whether those facts on its face, satisfy those elements.
I feel that it is important that defendants have a lawyer with them during these early proceedings. It gives the defendant a procedural advantage and familiarizes counsel with the case quickly. It also provides defense attorneys the opportunity to conduct quasi plea negotiations very early on in the case.
If you have more questions about CJP court, I will be happy to provide a free consultation.