If you have been charged with an indictable criminal offense in New Jersey, your case must be handled at the Superior Court level. In most cases, your first appearance will be in the municipality in which you were charged where you will be advised of your rights and the penalties against you and you will enter a plea of “not guilty”. At this point, the case will be transferred up to the county to be handled. For example, if you are charged with aggravated assault in Harding, New Jersey, the case will be transferred to the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey for adjudication.
Once the case is transferred up to the county, the case will be listed for a pre-indictment conference. In Morris County, this is known as an “EDC Conference” which stands for “Early Disposition Conference”. Each county has a different name for this pre-indictment conference. In Monmouth County, it is known as “PIP Court” which stands for “Pre-indictment Proceeding”. Regardless, the pre-indictment conference is the same in every county. The prosecutor’s office will provide the defendant with limited discovery and the State’s best plea offer at the conference. The reason for this is that the State saves time and money if the case resolves early on. For example, at this point the case would proceed by way of accusation because the case has not yet been presented to the grand jury for an indictment (the formal charging document). The defendant will also have the opportunity to apply for Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) at the pre-indictment conference if the defendant is eligible and the defendant is charged with a crime where PTI is an option (typically third degree and fourth degree crimes in New Jersey).
At the pre-indictment conference several things can happen. First, the defendant can accept the plea offer and enter a plea to the negotiated plea agreement. Second, the defendant can reject the plea offer and allow the case to proceed through the system, starting with the grand jury. Third, the defendant can try and negotiate an even lower plea offer than that which has been offered by the State. Fourth, the defendant can apply and be admitted into PTI if the defendant is recommended by probation and the prosecutor’s office approves that recommendation. Finally, the case can be remanded to municipal court (depending on what the original charges are).