The common perception of criminal law cases is typically that of a team of prosecutors and defense squaring off against each other in the tense courtroom setting. Yet oftentimes in criminal proceedings in Cranford, the unique circumstances of one's case may make it advantageous to consider plea bargaining. Indeed, information shared by the Bureau of Justice Assistance estimates that 90-95 percent of both federal and state court cases are resolved with a guilty plea. Yet simply because this appears to the norm in criminal matters does not mean that the process does not have its complexities.
One might wonder why plea bargaining seems to be such a common practice. Prosecutors may have incentives to offer defendants deals in an effort to avoid having to dedicate extensive resources into cases that might otherwise be resolved in a much faster manner. There are still, however protocols that must be followed with each plea bargain case. Per the New Jersey Court Rules, the following five criteria must be met in order for the court to consider a plea bargain:
- The case must be prosecuted by a municipal prosecutor, or county prosecutor or the Attorney General
- A defendant must either be represented by counsel or have waived their right to such a privilege
- The prosecutor must confirm to the court that the defendant has been consulted with regarding the plea
- It must be on record that the matter being pled to is within the jurisdiction of the municipal court and does not downgrade any offenses faced at the county level (without consent from the county prosecutor)
- The recommended sentence is not less than the mandatory requirements for the offense being pled to
The court does maintain the discretion to reject a plea agreement if it does not believe it to meet the interests of justice.