The Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor has established a Pretrial Division to handle all general matters from inception through indictment. Following indictment, a matter is referred to the Trial Division.
Criminal complaints are created using the eCDR system. There complaints are transferred electronically to the Court, the Prosecutor’s Office and the assigned defense counsel. Criminal complaints can be issued as a warrant-complaint, resulting in the detention of the defendant, or as a summons-complaint. Law enforcement officers may issue summons-complaints upon their own authority. Warrant-complaints must be approved by a judicial officer. The vast majority of complaints are issued upon the application of a law enforcement officer however, private citizens do have the right to apply to their municipal court for the issuance of a criminal complaint.
The decision whether to issue a warrant-complaint or summons-complaint is made by considering the Public Safety Assessment of the defendant and the nature of the charges. All warrant-complaints charging disorderly persons offenses or higher and all summons-complaints charging indictable offenses are referred to the Prosecutor’s Office for review. The Prosecutor’s Office can choose to refer these complaints back to the appropriate municipal court for further proceedings, dismiss the charges or pursue them in Superior Court.
The first court proceeding is appropriately called the First Appearance and occurs in the Central Judicial Processing Court located on the ground floor of the Hudson County Administration Building located at 595 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. At the First Appearance, the Prosecutor’s Office reviews the charges and, in the case of warrant-complaints, determines whether to file for Pretrial Detention. Under Criminal Justice Reform, monetary bail is no longer set except in extremely rare circumstances. If a Superior Court Judge determines that a defendant is unlikely to appear for court appearances, is likely to interfere with court proceedings or is a danger to the community, that defendant can be ordered detained for the pendency of his or her case.
Approximately one month after the First Appearance, cases are scheduled for an Early Disposition Hearing. At that hearing, defendants are given discovery and most are given a plea offer. If a case does not resolve, it is presented to the Hudson County Grand Jury to consider whether the charges should be indicted and referred to the Superior Court for further proceedings.