New Jersey residents facing criminal charges can understandably feel nervous about the prospect of enduring a full criminal trial. The reality is that only a small portion of cases end up being decided in this manner. Instead, they are settled out of court. The American Bar Association explains that this type of an agreement is referred to as a plea negotiation or a plea bargain.
Plea bargains can offer practical benefits to courts, prosecutors and defendants. Courts are able to reduce their load and avoid lengthy delays or backlogs. Prosecutors and defendants alike avoid the time and cost involved in a trial. In addition, defendants generally receive lighter penalty sets than they may by pursuing a trial.
In a plea bargain, attorneys for both sides work out an agreement that involves a defendant agreeing to a guilty charge but for a lesser offense than what could otherwise be faced. With a lesser charge comes the lighter penalty or sentence. The New Jersey Courts notes that charges can even be dropped in a plea bargain. This may happen if a person is accused of more than one crime. Some charges are dropped altogether and the defendant pleads guilty to only one charge, for example.
It is important to note that all plea bargains require the approval of the court. A judge always has the right to deny a plea bargain. If this happens, the case can be ordered back for further negotiation or sent on to trial. Concerns about pleas being too lenient may result in this action.