If you are charged with a crime in New Jersey, your first court appearance will be in the CJP Court in the County in which the charge is filed.
You will be given a copy of the complaint and informed of the charges. You will be advised of your right to remain silent and your right to counsel.
Your attorney will enter a not guilty plea and bail will be reviewed.
Additionally, initial discovery, consisting of police reports about the investigation, will be given to your lawyer. Obtaining and reviewing the discovery is an important step in preparing a defense.
The initial court appearance is often the first opportunity your attorney has to meet with the prosecutor and to try to influence the outcome in your case. A key decision the prosecutor will make at this stage of the case is whether your case is going to proceed as charged as a felony in Superior Court or if it is going to be reduced to a disorderly persons offense and transferred to Municipal Court. If the prosecutor reduces the charge to a disorderly persons offense, the potential sentence if you were to be convicted may be greatly reduced.
Additionally, this is an opportunity for your attorney to discuss with the prosecutor the possibility of Pretrial Intervention, a diversionary program which can avoid a conviction.
Before making any decisions about how to defend yourself against a criminal charge, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer.
James Patton, Certified Criminal Trial Attorney
209 South Livingston Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039