The first appearance is, generally, the first time a defendant appears before a judge. If the defendant is in custody, the first appearance is to be conducted within 72 hours, excluding holidays. If the defendant is released on bail, the first appearance is to occur without unnecessary delay. See R. 3:4-2(a). At the first appearance the judge informs the defendant
a. of the charges and furnishes a copy of the charges;
b. of the right not to make a statement as to the charge. The defendant also is
informed that any statement he or she makes may be used against him or
c. of the right to counsel or, if indigent, the right to have counsel
furnished without cost. 14
If the defendant is charged with an indictable offense, the judge also informs the defendant
of the existence of the PTI program and how to apply for admission to the program;
of the right to indictment by grand jury;
of the right to a trial by jury;
of the right to have a hearing as to probable cause.
R. 3:4-3 provides that if a defendant does not waive a hearing as to probable cause, one shall be held. As a practical matter, once such a hearing is requested, an indictment normally occurs prior to the hearing thus averting the need for such a hearing.
At this first appearance, the court also reviews bail if the defendant is incarcerated. See
R. 3:4-2. The first appearance can take place in front of either a Municipal Court judge or a Superior Court judge. In some instances it occurs at a pre-indictment event such as CJP or PIP.