The Grand Jury Unit shepherds most criminal cases through the court system until a Grand Jury decides whether to hand down an indictment. Seventy-seven percent of all cases referred to the Camden County Prosecutors Office go through the Grand Jury Unit. Of all complaints screened in 2009, the Grand Jury Unit kept approximately 48 percent. The assistant prosecutors downgraded approximately 28 percent to municipal court and dismissed approximately
one percent. The remaining cases are assigned to other
units within the office. Grand Jury Unit
Section Chief: Dana Petrone
The unit receives most formal complaints from the Unit Commander: Sgt. Cathy Fisher
county's 37 municipalities, as well as informal referrals
from the Board of Social Services, the Department of
Health and Senior Services and incidents of escape from institutions. The unit does not, as a general rule, initiate independent investigations.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES
The Grand Jury Unit is often a case's first stop en route to prosecution. Staff from this unit manages defendants' initial court appearances for Central Judicial Processing, where cases are referred to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office or assigned elsewhere. The CJP process, held four days a week, is streamlined by police departments scanning police reports and posting them electronically within two days of an arrest. This allows decisions about downgrades or dismissals to be made very early in the CJP process. About 76 percent of all arrests are scanned and available electronically. The unit continues to manage cases through another screening stage, the Pre-Indictment Conference (P.I.C.), when a defendant has the opportunity to plea or enter an intervention program. At these Wednesday hearings typically half the cases are dismissed, referred to Pre-Trial Intervention or plead to either the accusation or a disorderly persons offense.
Cases that aren't resolved or diverted must be prepared for presentation before a Grand Jury, which could choose to hand down indictments. At this point the unit's investigators and legal staff prepare records and documents necessary to present a case before a Grand Jury. The work includes contacting witnesses, supplementing the original police investigations and issuing subpoenas.
When a Grand Jury chooses to not indict a case is dismissed or referred back to a local court for a hearing and the clerical staff notifies all appropriate agencies and interested parties.
The Grand Jury Unit also has a senior assistant prosecutor who coordinates both the juvenile and adult drug court.
The unit responds to some legal motions filed by the defense, such as motions to dismiss cases and indictments or requests for discovery or parole revocations. It also provides advice to local police departments.
After indictment clerical personnel duplicate files for defense counsel. They also handle post-indictment court scheduling and aid in transferring files to the trial team.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
Created by the Legislature and Supreme Court, PTI is intended to provide first offenders charged with non-violent crimes an opportunity to escape the full stigma of a criminal prosecution by diverting them before a guilty finding.
The program allows these first time offenders to avoid a conviction by agreeing to conditions of a short-term probation. If the candidate is successful, the charge is ultimately dismissed. PTI support staff generates contact with victims so that their rights can be addressed and appreciated. Assistant prosecutors in the Grand Jury Unit also appear at formal hearings involving denials or termination of PTI and issues of restitution.
Drug Courts were established to address rising crime rates and incarceration costs resulting from substance abuse and addiction. These courts substitute intense drug treatment and judicial and probationary supervision for incarceration.
Approximately 631 defendants applied for drug court in 2009. The program accepted about 45 percent. The drug court prosecutor coordinates alternate pleas, drug court sentences and violations of probation. That prosecutor also attends all drug court team evaluations and weekly sessions to review and discuss the progress of each participant.
Through the process of early electronic pre-screening, same day presentments, setting up cases for grand jury presentation at CJP and afternoon grand jury sessions, the Grand Jury Unit continues to cut down its backlog percentage to comply with the AOC's 60 day standard and has been highly successful. For a large county that screens over 10,000 cases per year, our backlog percentage consistently remains in the bottom third statewide.
Camden County Prosecutor Office 25 North 5th Street Camden, New Jersey 08102 856-225-8400