If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Middlesex County, New Jersey, you likely feel frightened and confused. You may be unsure about the legal process and how you should handle your situation. There is a lot at stake in a criminal case in NJ, but knowing at least generally how the process works can help lessen the stress associated with the process. At The Law Offices of William Proetta Criminal Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys walk clients through every phase of the legal process in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick, from detention hearings, to pre-indictment, to trial, and beyond. Continue reading to learn more about what happens at a pre-indictment conference in New Jersey and call our office in Edison at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation about your specific case.
I was Arrested for a Felony, Now What?
In New Jersey, your first appearance before a judge must occur within 60 days of the date of your arrest. If you are in custody, that appearance must take place within 48 hours. At your initial appearance, you will be informed of the charges you are facing and the potential consequences. Then, your pre-indictment conference will be scheduled no more than 45 days after that date.
Before your case starts to proceed formally to a grand jury, the prosecutor will do some investigation and discovery regarding the facts of your situation. In this process, he or she will determine whether they have enough evidence or information to move forward with your charges. If they do not, then the case may be dismissed altogether. It could also be “downgraded” to a disorderly persons charge and moved to municipal court. If the allegations seem like they may be substantiated, the prosecutor will go forward with a pre-indictment conference.
The Basics of a Pre-Indictment Conference
The pre-indictment conference involves you, your attorney, a judge, and the prosecutor. It is designed to “short-circuit” cases so that the parties can avoid the time and expense of moving forward with additional discovery and going to trial. The overall purpose of the conference is to discuss or finalize options to dispose of the case or make a plea deal. It is conducted on the record so that everything is taken down by a court reporter or recorded.
At the conference, the prosecutor will offer you a plea deal (which requires you to submit a guilty plea in exchange for fewer consequences) based on the unique circumstances of your case. Your attorney and the prosecutor may have already discussed this potential deal beforehand, so the information presented at the conference may not be a surprise to you.
The prosecutor has the opportunity to present some evidence at this conference. The prosecutor will also provide the discovery that he or she is intending to use in the proceeding to your attorney in advance as well. Presentation and discussion of evidence are limited. That often means that the prosecutor will provide the most compelling evidence against you. There may be other evidence that is in your favor, but the prosecutor certainly will not present that type of information during the conference.
Should I Take the Plea Deal Offered at the Pre-Disposition Conference?
While plea deals often are not great at a pre-trial conference, accepting them at this point can be beneficial in some circumstances. In some situations, depending on the type of charge, the plea agreement offered may not get better if you wait. The deal proposed could also be terrible given the facts of your case; it may merely serve as a “placeholder” deal because the prosecutor is required to provide you with something at this conference. Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer to whether you should take the deal offered at a pre-indictment conference. This is why it is critical to have a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can review your case and give you straight answers about the possibility of a conviction if you go to trial.
New Brunswick NJ Criminal Lawyers for Pre-Indictment Conference in Middlesex County, NJ
The attorneys at William Proetta Criminal Law will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the evidence against you, enter into discussions with the Prosecutor, and keep you fully informed about the strength of the State’s case versus the attractiveness of the plea offer. We are dedicated to assisting you in achieving the best possible outcome, whether it means a plea agreement at your pre-indictment conference, enrollment in a program like Pre-Trial Intervention Program or Drug Court, or fighting it out at trial. Contact us now at (732) 659-9600 for a free initial consultation about your unique situation.