If you have been arrested in New Jersey for an indictable offense – also called a Superior Court offense or, in other states, a felony – you will have many things to worry about, including what it will be like to go into the courtroom. As you wait for your court date, you may instead receive notice informing you that a pre-indictment conference has been scheduled.
If you have received such a notice, you should get help from experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney Jason A. Volet right away. He can review your case and tell you what to expect at your pre-indictment conference. Ultimately, he can put his background as both an assistant prosecutor and as a defense lawyer to work for you and seek the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to learn more.
When Does a Pre-Indictment Conference Take Place?
The goal of a pre-indictment conference is to resolve indictable offenses before prosecutors present those cases to a grand jury. At the conference, a prosecutor typically will offer a plea deal to a defendant. As part of the deal, the prosecutor may offer to dismiss certain charges or reduce a charge to a lesser-included offense in exchange for the defendant’s guilty or no-contest plea.
If you are facing serious charges, and the evidence against you is substantial, it may be beneficial for you to accept the plea offer at a pre-indictment conference. If you accept it, you may face less jail time or, possibly, no incarceration at all. In reality, the plea deal which a prosecutor offers at a pre-indictment conference may be the best one that you receive.
While a pre-indictment conference could be beneficial, you should still speak to a New Jersey criminal defense attorney like Jason A. Volet before you proceed. The attorney can review your case and help you to decide the best strategy. Without an attorney’s guidance, you could end up making a mistake that costs you dearly.
What Happens in a New Jersey Pre-Indictment Conference?
In most cases, prior to the pre-indictment conference, the County Prosecutor’s Intake and Screening Unit will determine whether a prosecutor should pursue charges against you. The unit will review police reports, victim interviews, witness statements, photos, surveillance camera footage and other evidence in order to make this decision.
If a prosecutor determines that not enough evidence exists to pursue the case, the prosecutor may reduce or dismiss the charges. A prosecutor may also return a case to Municipal Court. However, if a prosecutor believes enough evidence exists to pursue the case, the prosecutor typically will prepare a plea offer. Several factors will influence the type of offer, including the severity of the crime, the strength of the evidence and the defendant’s prior record.
At the pre-indictment conference, the prosecutor will present the plea deal and limited discovery, or evidence. After you receive this offer, you will need to decide whether to accept or reject it. Your attorney can provide with sound advice to inform your decision. However, the choice will be yours and yours alone to make.
What is Limited Discovery? Should It Affect Your Decisions?
In any criminal case, discovery is the phase in which the prosecution presents all of its evidence to the defendant andhis or her attorney. The prosecution should turn over evidence that hurts and helps a defendant’s case. However, with limited discovery, the prosecution only presents evidence that will be harmful to your defense.
Once the prosecution presents you with limited discovery, you have three options. You can:
- Agree to take the plea deal and sentence associated with it
- You can reject the deal and let the case go before a grand jury
- Ask your attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea deal that will be more acceptable to you.
If you qualify for a pre-trial intervention program, you actually may not have to accept or refuse the plea offer. Pre-trial intervention programs allow you to avoid prosecution in court as well as jail time. These programs are only available if you are arrested for a first offense, and the charges you are facing involve non-violent acts. However, if you do not qualify to participate in this program, then you will have to decide what to do with the prosecution’s plea offer.
You should know that if you accept any plea deal from the prosecution, you may forfeit your chance to appeal the charges against you. You also may be unable to get your records expunged, or destroyed, in the future. These consequences don’t always occur after you have accepted a plea deal in a pre-indictment conference. However, there is always a risk. So, you should speak to your attorney about all of your options and how they will affect your case now and in the future.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me in My Pre-Indictment Conference?
Generally, you shouldn’t think about entering a courtroom without an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney by their side. You shouldn’t consider going into a pre-indictment conference without a lawyer, either.
An attorney can conduct an investigation prior to the conference and gather evidence that challenges the prosecution’s case against you. This evidence can give you a much clearer picture of whether to accept or reject any plea offer that a prosecutor makes at the pre-indictment conference. An attorney will also ensure that your rights are fully protected, act as your advocate throughout the entire process and negotiate with the prosecution.
If you have been charged with a crime, call The Law Office of Jason A. Volet right away before you receive notice of a pre-indictment conference. We will work hard to collect evidence that could help your case, and we will always work in your best interests. With years of experience as both a criminal prosecutor and defense attorney, Mr. Volet understands both sides of the law and can determine the best strategy for you. Contact us online today for your free case evaluation.