It can be overwhelming to be facing years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines because you were arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey. You are nervous about what is going to happen to you and unsure about the steps to take after charges have been filed. You assume that a hearing date will be set, and you will have your day in court. However, you receive notice of a pre-indictment conference date. What is a pre-indictment conference? Does the prosecutor think you may be innocent?
Sending a Case to the Grand Jury for Indictment
In New Jersey, indictable offenses go through a legal process that is different from disorderly persons offenses, or misdemeanors. A felony will be handled at the Superior Court in the county where the alleged crime occurred. For instance, if you are charged with a higher level indictable crime in Burlington County, the case is handled by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and heard in the Burlington County Superior Court’s Criminal Division at 49 Rancocas Road in Mount Holly, NJ. Examples of higher level indictable charges, referred to as felonies in some states, include sexual assault, stalking, arson, most drug crimes, aggravated assault, and weapons offenses.
When a prosecutor receives a case with an indictable offense, the prosecutor reviews the case to determine whether the case should be referred to the grand jury for an indictment or downgraded and referred to municipal court. If the prosecutor determines that the case should remain in the Superior Court, the prosecutor can send the case to the grand jury for indictment and hold a pre-indictment conference before referring the matter to the grand jury.
Why Does a Prosecutor Schedule a Pre-Indictment Conference?
In deciding whether to hold a pre-indictment conference, and what the initial plea offer should be if the State intends to prosecute at the Superior Court level, the prosecutor considers several factors including:
- The severity of the criminal charge;
- The probability of a guilty verdict; and,
- The expense, in terms of time and cost, of trying the case.
After considering all relevant issues, the prosecutor may schedule a pre-indictment conference. However, you should not assume that scheduling a conference means that the evidence in your case is weak. While a pre-indictment conference may offer an opportunity to lessen the penalties for a crime, it is not always a straightforward or easy process. You need a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney with experience handling pre-indictment conferences to help you weigh your options and choose the option that gives you the best chance of mitigating the potential damage from your criminal charges.
What Are My Options in a Pre-Indictment Conference?
Your options at a pre-indictment conference are limited to:
- Accepting the plea bargain offered by the prosecutor;
- Rejecting the offer from the prosecutor; or,
- Attempting to negotiate a better plea bargain to resolve your criminal case.
If you reject the plea arrangement from the prosecutor, the prosecutor may then send your case to the grand jury to obtain a felony indictment.
Do I Need a NJ Criminal Defense Attorney for a Pre-Indictment Conference?
Before considering an offer, you must understand that the prosecutor is only sharing some of the discovery with you during the conference, typically the strongest evidence the state has against you. In other words, you are not being shown all evidence the prosecutor has in your case. Therefore, you are not being told about issues with your case that could constitute potential defenses to the charges or problems for the state. There could even be evidence that might support a lesser charge. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for you to have an experienced NJ criminal defense lawyer with you at the pre-indictment conference. An experienced defense attorney can help ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the entire process and understand all of the potential avenues you can take toward resolution.
Mount Holly NJ Criminal Defense Attorneys for Your Pre-Indictment Conference in Burlington, Camden, & Gloucester County
At our criminal defense law firm, our highly experienced criminal defense lawyers regularly represent clients at pre-indictment conferences held in Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and throughout South Jersey. If you would like the speak with an attorney about your specific criminal case and upcoming pre-indictment conference, contact our office today at 609-832-3202. Consultations are always provided free of charge. You can also contact us online to arrange a free consultation.