Pleading guilty or not guilty and plea agreements

Anyone who is arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey needs to become familiar with the legal system quickly. There are several terms and procedures that are not applicable in other fields. Close study of concepts such as pleas and their consequences may be essential in securing the best possible representation that one can find.

The plea process

The plea is a key step in any criminal proceeding from traffic violations to felonies. It often occurs after arraignment and as a pivotal moment in the trial process. Defendants are given the two broad choices of pleading guilty or not guilty. If they plead guilty, they are subsequently sentenced for the crime that they are pleading guilty to. Those who plead not guilty then head on to a trial, either with a judge or jury of a person’s peers.

The trial process is far from guaranteed in nearly every situation. Reasonable doubt and obstinate jurors can derail even the most obvious cases. As a result, many prosecutors will reach out to discuss a plea bargain. The plea bargain involves a defendant pleading guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. This lighter sentence must be approved by a judge and sometimes is not worth the impact on a person’s criminal record.

What to do

The plea process is a thorny one for any individual. They need to weigh the facts of the case along with the severity of the charges and the nature of the plea bargain being offered. In some cases, guilty pleas lead to lenient sentences for first-time offenders and expungement of a person’s record. In other situations, they lead to substantial jail time and can be exploitative. Individuals need to consult with legal counsel and closely study whatever they agree to before signing a plea agreement and submitting it to a judge.

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