In many cases, the prosecutor and the defendant's lawyer will negotiate a plea agreement. In a plea agreement, the prosecutor may offer the accused an arrangement where s/he will recommend a reduced term of incarceration or probation in exchange for a guilty plea. In some instances, the charges are reduced or dismissed as part of the plea bargain. Maximum sentence terms may also be part of negotiated agreements with certain requirements and stipulations. Criminal Division individual judge teams, managed by team leaders, coordinate court dates with the prosecutor and the defense attorney regarding the plea agreement and establish a court date for the plea to be entered.
Defendants entering a plea must sign a statement certifying that they understand the plea and are entering into the agreement voluntarily and without pressure from the prosecution or their own attorney. They also acknowledge that the Criminal Division judges are not bound by the agreement when deciding and rendering sentences. If a judge perceives that the plea bargain is too lenient, the judge can reject the plea and order the prosecution and defense parties to re-negotiate, or order the matter set down for trial. Thitry percent (30%) of all complaints are settled through pretrial programs and negotiations. After a criminal case is indicted, over 70% are resolved without proceeding to a full trial.
Defendants pleading guilty as a result of the plea agreement, must acknowledge their plea in open court. Defendants who plead guilty after plea negotiations do not surrender their right to appeal their convictions to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Defendants pleading guilty to crimes are subject to a
Pre-Sentence Investigation, conducted by Probation Officers or Case Supervisors
on the judge's team in the Criminal Division. This report is used by the Judge,
Prosecutor and Defense Attorney at the time of sentencing.