Does prosecutorial discretion play a role in shaping New Jersey’s approach to criminal enforcement? The ambitions of Hudson County’s new chief prosecutor suggest it may. 

The official, Ester Suarez, is in charge of an office with a $20 million budget and over 300 staff. The office investigates homicides and prosecutes various felony cases. In her first three months, the official has already launched a public outreach initiative in a neighborhood ranked among the top seven for violence in Jersey City. The goal of the scheduled community meeting is to discuss ways residents can better utilize their local law enforcement officers. 

Notably, the official isn’t just promoting aggressive criminal prosecutions. For convicted defendants that have served their sentences, the official has also expressed an interest in helping them expunge their records and reintegrate into society. Another proactive approach to reducing criminal violence is a medical screening van that will offer a variety of services, possibly including support resources for domestic violence, anger management and substance abuse.

As a law firm that provides strong criminal defense to those accused of a variety of criminal offenses, we are particularly interested in the official’s public comments on prosecutorial discretion. Instead of treating every criminal case as headed to trial, Suarez has stated that she wants a more critical analysis of cases at their beginning stages in order to determine which might be suited to plea deals. This is good news for those defending against charges of drunk driving charges, drug offenses, weapons crimes or other types of offenses. With a criminal defense attorney’s help, an accused might be able to negotiate with local prosecutors for a plea deal or more favorable outcome.

Source: nj.com, “Hudson Newsmakers: New chief prosecutor, Esther Suarez, working to make office hum,” Michaelangelo Conte, Oct. 14, 2015