First Appearance

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers With Over 200 Years Of Experience Including Decades Serving As Prosecutors Throughout The State

The initial appearance, also referred to as a first appearance, is a significant stage in the New Jersey criminal justice process.  Our New Jersey criminal defense firm is one of the largest in the state and routinely appears throughout the state on behalf of clients at first appearances in criminal cases. We feature a team of 10 attorneys, most of whom are former prosecutors that have served in key positions like Director of Major Crimes, the entire Trial Division, Drugs Task Force, Juvenile Division and others. The collective experience of the lawyers at the firm exceeds two hundred (200) years. We are ready to serve you anywhere in NJ. If you are seeking advice or representation because you or a loved one is facing a charge and has an initial appearance, contact our office for a free consultation with an attorney. The article that follows outlines basic information regarding first appearances. Do not hesitate to contact us to speak to a lawyer directly for more information.

First Appearance In A New Jersey Criminal Case

There is a major distinction between how first appearances takes place when someone is arrested on a warrant complaint as compared to a summons. We should therefore start with explaining the distinction between the two.

If a complaint is issued on a summons, commonly referred to as a complaint-summons or a summons, the defendant is not detained and is simply served with a notice that he is to appear in court on a specified date. The process is significantly more complex under the New Jersey Justice Reform Act when someone is arrested on a warrant complaint.

When law enforcement issues a criminal complaint on a warrant, commonly referred to as a complaint-warrant or warrant complaint, it requires the formal arrest of the defendant. The defendant must be processed on the warrant at the police station and thereafter transported to the county jail.  The court is required to conduct a first appearance within 48 hours of the defendant being taken into custody.  Most first appearances are held at the county jail. The NJ Administrative Offices of the Courts has set up virtual access to these proceedings since many are conducted on weekends or outside normal court hours. This allows inmates, judges, court personnel, prosecutors and attorneys to participate in hearings although they are not physically present.

Determination Concerning Pretrial Release

The purpose of the initial appearance is to determine whether or not the defendant should be granted pretrial release and, if so, the conditions that should be imposed. Please note that, as a general matter, monetary bails are no longer a vehicle used by the court as a condition for ensuring that the defendant appears at subsequent proceedings in the case. Pretrial Services is required to conduct a public safety assessment (“PSA”) for every defendant who is taken into custody on criminal charges. This report assigns a risk score on a scale of 1 to 6 (i.e. 1 being least risky and 6 being worst) with respect to two issues: (1) risk of new criminal activity if released; and (2) risk of failing to appear or obstructing prosecution.

The PSA is a computer driven evaluation that utilizes various factors such as prior criminal history, existence of a violent crime activity, age and history of appearing in prior cases, to predict the risk associated with release. Based on the PSA calculations, a recommendation is made by Pretrial Services regarding release. The options are:

(1) Releasing the Defendant On His/Her Own Recognizance (“ROR”). This means that there are no conditions imposed to ensure that the accused appears at his/her next court date.

(2) Pretrial Monitoring Level 1 (“PML 1”). This means that the accused will be released but will be required to report to pretrial services once a month by telephone as a condition of remaining free.

(3) Pretrial Monitoring Level 2 (“PML 2”). A defendant is required to report biweekly, alternating between phone reporting and in person reporting, as a condition of maintaining his/her release.

(4) Pretrial Monitoring Level 3 Plus (“PML 3 +”). An individual is on home detention with electronic monitoring when this level is imposed. The monitor establishes an electronic grid that restricts the accused to predetermined locations that are tracked via GPS. If someone released on pretrial electronic monitoring wonders outside the approved grid area, an alarm advises Pretrial Services that there has been a violation.

(5) No Release. The defendant must remain in custody until his/her trial when pretrial release is denied.

Based on the PSA score and conditions recommended, the judge must make a decision concerning release. The court is required to utilize the least restrictive conditions needed to assure the defendant’s appearance. Please note, however, that this step does no occur if the prosecutor files a pretrial detention motion. This is permitted where the charge faced by the defendant is indictable (i.e. first degree, second degree, third degree or fourth degree) or is a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence. The detention motion is heard three (3) days later before a Superior Court judge sitting in the Criminal Division. For more information on detention hearings click here.

Advising the Defendant Of Certain Rights

Irrespective of whether a motion to detain is filed or not, the court must advise the defendant of certain rights at the First Appearance. The Court must:

1. Advise the defendant that he/she has a right to counsel;

2. Determine whether the defendant wishes to be represented and, if so, whether they shall be retaining a private attorney or want to complete an application for a Public Defender.

3. Inform the defendant that there are diversionary programs such as Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) and Drug Court and how they may apply for admission;

4. Inform the defendant of his or her right to a probable cause hearing to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the criminal offense to proceed;

5. Advise the defendant that he/she must be indicted by a grand jury before they can be required to stand trial on indictable criminal charge(s);

6. Inform the defendant of his or her right to a jury trial;

7. Set conditions of pretrial release in accordance with Court Rule 3:26;

9. Advise the defendant of the date for his/her pre-indictment disposition conference. This hearing is supposed to be conducted within 45 days of the first appearance; and

10. In those cases in which the prosecutor has filed a motion for an order of pretrial detention pursuant to R. 3:4A, set the date and time for the required hearing and inform the defendant of his or her right to seek a continuance of such hearing.

Our Highly Accomplished New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys Are Ready To Help You

A first appearance can easily become much more complicated absent a skilled attorney to ensure that a defendant’s interests are fully protected. This is particularly true if you do not have the benefit of a persuasive lawyer when the prosecutor is making the decision as to whether or not to file a detention motion. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are experienced in accomplishing a significant amount prior to and at first appearances and welcome the opportunity to discuss exactly how they can help you in a free consultation. You can call us toll-free at 877-450-8301 to speak to one of our defense lawyers 24/7. Below are some of the jurisdictions that we serve in New Jersey.

Counties Served By The Attorneys At Our Criminal Defense Firm

Hudson County Criminal Defense LawyerBurlington County Criminal Attorneys
Somerset County Criminal AttorneyCamden County Criminal Defense Lawyers
Atlantic County Criminal LawyersGloucester County Criminal Attorney
Mercer County Criminal AttorneyMonmouth County Criminal Attorneys
Hunterdon County Criminal Defense LawyerMiddlesex County Criminal Lawyers
Passaic County Criminal AttorneysUnion County Criminal Lawyer
Bergen County Criminal Defense AttorneyMorris County Criminal Lawyers