If the case is referred to the Prosecutor's Office, it may thereafter still be returned to a municipal court. If the prosecutor decides to prosecute at the Superior Court level, he will present the matter to a Grand Jury for review.
A Grand Jury is a body of 23 citizens that hears evidence presented by the Prosecutor about an alleged crime. If at least 12 of the jurors determine that there is sufficient evidence to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed it, the case is True Billed and an Indictment is returned. If the matter is No-Billed, the proceedings may ordinarily be considered terminated. In certain cases however, with additional evidence, the case may by re-presented to the Grand Jury.
Grand Jury can also vote to remand a case to Municipal Court, which can sentence a defendant to fines of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail on a disorderly persons offense. Also, restitution can be ordered to the victim.
Grand Jury proceedings are held in secret, and only the jurors, the Prosecutor, the Court Clerk, the Court Reporter and witnesses are present. The defendant may appear, but this is rare. Testimony before the Grand Jury cannot be disclosed to anyone except by Court Order.
Upon indictment, the defendant must appear with his attorney before a Superior Court Judge. At this arraignment, the defendant receives a copy of the indictment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered, and a date is set for a Status Conference.
The defendant may be eligible for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI). With the consent of the Prosecutor, the defendant who is accepted into PTI is diverted into rehabilitative counseling and supervision, and placed on probation without a trial or entry of a guilty plea. Upon successful completion of the program, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed. If applicable, restitution is ordered.
At a Status or Pre-Trial Conference, the defendant, his attorney and the Assistant Prosecutor appear. This is an opportunity for both parties to negotiate a plea agreement, whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some of the charges with the Prosecutor often recommending a sentence or the dismissal of other charges. Plea bargaining is a necessary aspect of Camden County's criminal justice process because it promotes the speedy disposition of cases without the necessity of a lengthy trial. The goal of the Prosecutor in plea bargaining is to achieve approximately the same result as would have occurred if the defendant had gone to trial. If a plea cannot be agreed upon, a date is set for a trial. Over 10,000 cases enter the Criminal Justice System each year in Camden County. If each one were to be tried in Superior Court, the cost to taxpayers would be astronomical. Out of 10,000 cases filed, approximately 3,400 are indicted. Plea bargains also eliminate the fear of testifying for victims and witnesses.
Camden County Prosecutor Office 25 North 5th Street Camden, New Jersey 08102 856-225-8400