Just like in most other places, New Jersey has crowded courtrooms. To move cases quickly through the criminal justice process, prosecutors often pursue guilty pleas from defendants. These pleas may benefit those who have committed crimes, as they often include less serious consequences.
Nevertheless, accepting a plea deal is not something anyone should do without considerable thought. After all, your plea may benefit the prosecutor more than it does you. Here are three questions you may want to ask yourself before agreeing to the prosecutor’s deal.
1. Do you understand the terms of the deal?
Like many other attorneys, prosecutors often write with legalese and cite complex statutes or court opinions. If you do not understand precisely what your plea deal says, you are not ready to accept it. The same is true if you do not comprehend the consequences of accepting the deal.
2. Did you commit the crime?
Accepting a guilty plea means you are acknowledging your guilt. Stated differently, when you agree to the deal, you say you committed the crime. This may earn you a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. Consequently, if you did not do the crime, accepting the prosecutor’s plea deal may not be fair to you.
3. Do you have any reasonable defenses?
Prosecutors must prove each element of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can attack any part of the prosecutor’s case, you may secure an acquittal at trial. Even better, you may be able to seek an outright dismissal of your criminal charges.
Ultimately, if you have any reasonable defenses, it is probably advisable to explore all your legal options before simply taking the plea.