People don’t always end up in court when charged with a crime in New Jersey. Sometimes, their criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor can work out a deal that they believe has better odds for the defendant than what a judge or jury would likely give them.
Understanding a plea bargain
A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a crime, and in return, the prosecutor agrees to drop some of the charges or recommend a lighter sentence. Depending on the specifics of your case, this may or may not be the best course of action.
Types of plea bargains
According to New Jersey criminal law, there are three types of plea bargains: a fact bargain, a charge bargain and a sentence bargain. A fact bargain is when the prosecutor agrees not to use certain evidence against you in exchange for your guilty plea.
A charge bargain is when the prosecutor agrees to drop one or more charges against you in exchange for your guilty plea on another charge. For example, if you are facing charges of burglary and assault, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss the assault charge if you plead guilty to burglary.
A sentence bargain is when the prosecutor recommends a lighter sentence than what is allowed by law. For example, if you are facing up to ten years in prison but reach a plea deal with the prosecutor, they may only ask the judge to give you five years.
If you are offered a plea bargain, it is up to you whether or not to accept it. There are circumstances where it may not be appropriate for you. For example, when you are innocent and don’t want to plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit, the deal is not good enough, or if you believe you have a strong defense and will likely be found not guilty if you go to trial.