Twelve Assistant Prosecutors and five Detectives are assigned to the Trial Section, including the Trial Chief and three assistant chiefs. Together, these attorneys representing the State of New Jersey, prosecute the majority of indictable criminal offenses brought by local, county, and state police law enforcement agencies. Court proceedings in these matters include, but are not limited to arraignments, motions, pre-trial conferences, trials, sentencing, and post-conviction relief issues.
Once a Bergen County Grand Jury votes to indict a case, the Trial Chief reviews the file and assigns the matter to the trial prosecutor, who will handle the matter through its final disposition. The trial assistant prosecutor reviews the file -- including the criminal history of the defendant -- to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case and to become familiar with the victim, if an identifiable victim is involved. This is necessary to meaningfully discuss the case with a supervisor in order to devise a fair plea offer, and to determine whether the defendant is a suitable candidate for admission into the Pre-trial Intervention Program (PTI). Only the Trial Chief, the assistant trial chiefs and senior trial attorneys have the authority to extend and modify plea offers. A significant number of cases are disposed of by way of PTI or a negotiated plea. Bearing in mind the rights and feelings of the victim(s), these resolutions can benefit all parties involved by bringing a case to a swift and just conclusion.
The defendants whose cases proceed to trial are most often those who are either charged with the more serious offenses or whose lengthy criminal records preclude any reasonable plea negotiations. Other cases which are tried reflect the Prosecutor's Office policy on specific crimes, namely those crimes which are so sensitive to human dignity that they demand an enhanced degree of public scrutiny through the trial process. Such cases are tried in open court and a jury of citizens residing in Bergen County decides the ultimate verdict. The sentencing of defendants always includes a recommendation made by an assistant prosecutor on behalf of the State of New Jersey.