What is a Plea Deal?
A plea deal is a negotiation that occurs before trial.
To “Take A Plea” means to admit guilt for one crime so that all others are dismissed.
For example, let’s say that you are charged with 4 crimes. If you “take a plea deal” and admit guilt for crime 1, then crimes 2, 3, and 4 will be dismissed.
Why should i take a Plea Deal?
You may consider taking a plea deal when the deal involves a guarantee that you will not go to prison.
First-time offenders will usually be offered a plea deal in exchange for probation and no prison time.
In other instances, you should take a plea deal when there is a lot of evidence against you and there really is no way for you to win at trial.
For example, nowadays there are video cameras everywhere. If there is a video of you clearly committing the crime you are accused of, there may be no way to win your case.
You may consider taking a plea deal if you were arrested as a co-defendant. If you were arrested with one or more people, you will have co-defendants.
A typical example would involve a “drug party situation”. If the cops arrested ten people for drugs at a party and you were part of that group, you may be offered a plea deal in exchange for your cooperation.
If you were at the party but had nothing to do with the drugs, why should you get a criminal record and go to prison? You may get offered a plea deal in exchange for being a witness against the other people at the party.
Plea deals are also very common in Municipal Court in NJ.
If you have ten traffic tickets, the Prosecutor may offer a plea deal. When you plead guilty to two of the tickets, the other eight get dismissed.
If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure about taking a plea deal, reach out to a criminal defense lawyer & get a second opinion. Many lawyers offer Free Consultations.
When should i take a Plea Deal?
If you are being charged with co-defendants, the first person to take an offer usually gets the best offer.
Of course, you will feel uncomfortable about “turning against” your friends but these situations are always ugly. Every case is different but the “least guilty” person in the group is usually the one to accept the plea deal to testify against the others.
If you are arrested alone (without co-defendants), it is best to wait until after all of the evidence is in to get a plea deal.
Wait until after you receive all of the evidence against to consider a plea deal.
Once all of the evidence is provided, you should sit down with your criminal defense lawyer and discuss the strengths & weaknesses of your case.
You must never take a plea deal if you sincerely & truly & honestly know that you didn’t commit any crime.
If you have been falsely arrested or accused, you should fight to the end.
In America, you have a Constitutional right to your day in court. Use it!
How should i approach a Plea Deal?
From the cop that arrested you to the Prosecutor & Judge assigned to your case, everyone is just doing their job. In other words, it’s not personal.
7 Top Tips On Getting The Absolute Best Plea Deal
1. You have to make a good first impression
First impressions are everything.
If the first time you approach a Municipal Prosecutor you are dressed in street clothes and smell of alcohol or marijuana, you have failed in making a good first impression.
On the other hand, if you are dressed appropriately and groomed in a clean and respectable manner, chances are that your first impression will be a positive one. A good first impression goes a long way in gaining the prosecutor’s willingness to work out a favorable plea bargain.
Never approach the prosecutor with an aggressive or threatening tone. Defense attorneys and prosecutors understand that defendants are frustrated. They may have a lot going on in their life and the last thing they needed to add to their problems was a traffic ticket, a criminal charge, and the hassle of going to court and facing high fines. However, the municipal prosecutor is not the person for you to vent out all of your frustration. You must understand that Neither the municipal prosecutor , nor the defense attorney, nor the judge, nor any of the court staff were present when you were cited for a traffic violation or arrested for a criminal charge.The last thing you want to do is storm in to the municipal criminal justice system on the innocent prosecutor.
2. never approach the prosecutor aggressively
Never approach the Prosecutor with an aggressive or threatening tone.
Prosecutors understand that defendants are frustrated. They may have a lot going on in their life and the last thing they need is a traffic ticket, a criminal charge, and the hassle of going to court and facing high fines.
However, the Municipal Prosecutor is not the person for you to vent out all of your frustration. Again, we are all doing a job and it’s nothing personal.
3. never make demands on the prosecutor
Prosecutors deal with hundreds of defendants every week.
Try to view the world from the Prosecutor’s point of view. They don’t know you, they just get the file with your case. They read the charge & the police reports. The first time they meet with you is the first time they learn about your case.
When you enter the Prosecutor’s office, sit and listen. Sit there quietly while the prosecutor reviews your file. Avoid the temptation to start explaining your case until the Prosecutor asks to hear from you. There is nothing worse than to make demands on a Prosecutor at this time. (Or any other time)
Bergen County criminal lawyer
Let the municipal prosecutor do his research and wait for him to ask you to explain your side of the story. This is where “less is more”. Mentally rehearse what you intend to tell the municipal prosecutor when it is your turn to speak with him.
Keep it short and sweet.
4. Don't be know-it-all
Be real about your situation. Don’t go into a plea deal from the position that you are a victim & the police are out to get you.
Unless you are super-innocent & really did nothing wrong, you may want to start working on your plea deal by admitting that you may have been speeding a few miles over the limit but you never made an illegal U-turn.
Once you have stated your case, keep quiet.
Give the Prosecutor some time to consult with the police officer and think about the best possible resolution to the situation.
The biggest mistake people make in these situations is that they accuse the cop of doing absolutely everything wrong. Then they passionately describe themselves as being completely innocent. Concede what must be conceded and hold your ground on those few issues where you feel that the ticket or the arrest was unfair or inappropriate or with insufficient facts.
5. The key to getting the best plea deal is patience
NJ Municipal courts are the best place to practice Zen.
Turn up your patience and concentrate on your breathing.
Never pressure the Prosecutor into getting you out of court as quickly as possible.
On average, NJ Municipal court sessions have between 100 cases per session. Remember, you are not the only person in court.
You will gain absolutely nothing by pressuring the prosecutor to resolve your case ahead of everyone else’s.
Instead, you will achieve the opposite result by placing this type of pressure on the municipal prosecutor.
The municipal prosecutor may put your case on the bottom of the pile because you have been so rude, pushy, and disrespectful.
Wait your turn like everybody else and the chances are you will get out of court sooner than you think.
6. don't expect to get the best plea deal on your first attempt
The prosecutor may ask you to return within two weeks or a month so that he can meet with the police officer to discuss your case.
Do not become frustrated and pound your fist on his desk. Once again, he is being thorough in doing his job as required by law. He cannot offer you any plea deals without first speaking with the state’s witnesses (cop).
Once the prosecutor offers you a plea, you have every right to respectfully request time to think about it and perhaps discuss it with legal counsel.
In my experience, absolutely every Municipal Prosecutor I have ever dealt with encourages defendants to get a lawyer and will agree to your request for a brief adjournment.
Be polite, courteous, and thank the Prosecutor for his time. Explain that you will try to meet with an attorney to get a second opinion and that you look forward to working with him again during your next court appearance.
Good manners go a long way.
7. the best plea deals take time
Plea deals are negotiations.
From the moment you meet with the Prosecutor to the end, the principles of negotiation are the same. There is no need to be aggressive, antagonistic, forceful, or rude.
Your first meeting with the Prosecutor should be uneventful. The best plea deals come at the end. The closer the case gets to trial, the better the plea deal. It’s a long process but worth the time.
The first offer is usually not the best offer. It’s a chance for you to get an idea of the prosecutor’s attitude or position in your case. It is in your best interest to take a two-week or a one month break and ask the Prosecutor for time to consider the offer.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Time is on your side.
tying it all together
The keys to getting the best plea deal in NJ are simple and straightforward.
They consist of:
making a good first impression;
getting a feel for the decision maker’s willingness to go in one direction or another;
and then taking time to arrive at a decision.
If you follow these suggestions you will greatly increase your chances of getting the best possible plea deal that a NJ Municipal Prosecutor can legally offer you.
Alternatively, if you do not follow these suggestions, you run the risk of losing the Prosecutor’s willingness to help.
If you are still intimidated about going to court alone, Contact Us for a free consultation.