Stages of a Criminal Case in Union County

First Appearance

After a defendant is formally arrested and charged with a crime, a first appearance hearing will be scheduled at the Union County Superior Court. The first appearances are normally held at the second floor of the county jail by Judge Gross. At this hearing the defendant is informed of the charges against him/her and advised of the following rights:

1) The right to make a statement concerning those charges

2) The right to apply to the Pretrial Intervention and/or Drug Court Program

3) The right to a probable cause hearing on any indictable offense

4) The right to a formal indictment by a grand jury

5) If indigent, a defendant has the right to an appointed counsel, bail issues will be addressed and a Plea-Dispositional Conference (PDC) date will be set.

For more information regarding your first appearance court date you can contact:

Cathy Morales, Team Leader, Central Intake 908-659-5407
Mecca Brown, Supervisor 908-659-5409

Plea Disposition Conference “PDC”

If the county prosecutor’s office believes your case may be able to be worked out without a trial they will set it for a PDC date. First or second degree charges such as murder, Armed Robbery, and Gun Charges are normally not given a PDC court date and are instead sent directly to indictment by the grand jury. At the PDC event the defendant is given the opportunity to work out a plea to the charges. If the defendant pleads guilty, the State draws up an Accusation of the charges, as well as a plea agreement signed by the prosecutor, defense attorney and the judge. A sentence date is given.
If the defendant does not plead guilty, the case will proceed in any of the following directions:

1)      Case may be administratively dismissed by the prosecutor;

2)      Case may be remanded/downgraded to Municipal Court;

3)      Case may be sent to the Grand Jury for consideration of Indictment; or

4)      Case may be recommended for the Pretrial Intervention and/or Drug Court Programs


When the Grand Jury indicts a defendant, the Criminal Division will assign cases to judges based on the assignment of counsel. Following indictment, cases are scheduled for a Post-Indictment Pre-Arraignment Status Conference. The judge is not present at this conference, but the defendant must appear with his or her attorney. At this conference discovery materials are exchanged and a plea offer from the prosecutor’s office is presented to the attorney. A formal notice will be given to the defendant, and/or attorney documenting their appearance at the conference and schedule for Post-Indictment Arraignment.
Status conferences are scheduled on Tuesdays as follows:

Jail cases: 5-7 days after indictment

Bail cases (in county): 10-14 days after indictment

Bail cases (out-of-county): 14-21 days after indictment


Post-indictment arraignments are scheduled on Monday mornings approximately 2-3 weeks after the completed Post-Indictment Pre-Arraignment Status Conference. At this court event the judge formally reads the charges against the defendant as per the indictment and the defendant will receive a chance to enter an initial plea of either “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the defendant pleads guilty a sentence date will be set. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a Pre-Trial Status Conference is scheduled.


The Pretrial Conference is usually set 30-45 days after arraignment on Monday mornings. Plea negotiations are conducted at this time. If a guilty plea does not result, any trial problems should be worked out and a tentative trial date is set. Pending motions should be discussed and scheduled either that day or soon thereafter.


Every Friday is a formal motion day for all Criminal Judges. However many judges hear motions on other days depending on their schedules and the availability of counsel.


Cases scheduled for trial usually begin with jury selection on Monday afternoons or Tuesday mornings in each Criminal Courtroom.


All Criminal Division judges conduct sentencing hearings on Fridays. The judge will receive a Presentence Investigation Report from the Pre-Sentence Unit which will detail the nature of the instant offense, the defendants prior criminal record, their health, substance abuse, family/social, educational and employment history. (In some instances if the prosecutor and defense attorney agree, the defendant may waive their right to have a Presentence Report prepared and they are simultaneously sentenced at the time of the plea.)