Have to go to Central Judicial Processing, What is It?
Central Judicial Processing (CJP court) occurs when anyone in the State of New Jersey has been charged with an indictable offense. CJP court is your first appearance in court after you have been charged with an offense that is essentially the equivalent of a felony in another state. It is important to have an attorney present for this critical step in your case, as it could direct the course of action taken against you by the state.
Where is CJP Court Held?
CJP is heard in the County Courthouse in which the offense was alleged to have been committed. For instance, a person charged with a crime in Union County, New Jersey, will have central judicial processing at the Union County Superior Court located in Elizabeth. It is important to note that this only applies to criminal cases in which the defendant has been charged with an indictable offense. After you have been charged with a criminal offense, you will be given a notice to appear in court (if you are not currently being held in detention in the Union County Jail, which is also located in Elizabeth). The notice will have the date, time, and location of the hearing. Follow the instructions and do not ignore the notice or the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. You should seek legal representation as soon as you know that you have been charged with any criminal offense and make sure to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you have an upcoming appearance for CJP court.
What Should I Expect at Central Judicial Processing?
Anyone charged with a “crime” in the state of NJ is required to attend CJP. Crimes in New Jersey are known as indictable offenses and these charges may be graded as either first, second, third, or fourth degree crimes. At CJP, the judge will advise you of the specific charges against you and review your conditions of release or detention (also known as bail).
The prosecutor will provide some limited discovery that pertains to your case. This will give you and your attorney an idea of the evidence against you. After reviewing the case, a decision will be made about whether to keep your case in Superior Court or to downgrade the matter to municipal court. If the case remains in Superior Court, it means that the case will remain an indictable crime (felony) for the time being. Violent crimes such as aggravated assault and terroristic threats, as well as crimes that are first and second degree such as unlawful possession of a weapon, robbery, and intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, will likely remain at the Superior Court level.
If the charges are not downgraded, the case will proceed at a later date to a pre-indictment conference (PIC). This is considered an opportunity to resolve your case through plea negotiations. If the case does not resolve at that date, the matter will be referred to the grand jury for indictment.
What if a Case is Downgraded?
In some cases, particularly fourth degree crimes, offenses involving small amounts of drugs, resisting arrest, shoplifting, and other non-violent offense, the charges are downgraded and sent to municipal court. As a general rule, cases that are lower level and non-violent can be downgraded, which essentially means the charges are reduced to a lesser offense. If the case is downgraded to municipal court, it means that the charge is no longer an indictable crime. Anyone convicted of a crime can go to state prison. However, if the matter is downgraded, the state can no longer seek state prison, as it is not legally permissible. Additionally, the downgrade means that the charge is a disorderly persons offense and does not have as significant an impact as an indictable crime would. Equally important is that the case moves more quickly and does not consume your life in terms of time and emotional aggravation. Your upcoming court appearances will now be in the local court in the municipality where you were arrested.
How an Attorney Can Help With Central Judicial Processing (CJP) Court in Union County
Defense attorneys with experience handling criminal cases and the particular court you are in are essential when you are seeking the best results in your case. With their help, you can make the entire criminal process easier. Our firm has dedicated Union County criminal defense lawyers that are knowledgeable in criminal law and will assist you through every step of the criminal process. We know what to look for, who to talk to, and what can be done to fight your charges. Contact our local office in Cranford today at (908) 838-0150 or contact us online to discuss representation at CJP in Union County Courthouse. We are available 24/7 to provide you with a free consultation.