Defendants fighting a domestic violence charge in the New Jersey court system have likely been through restraining order hearings. Nevertheless, the final determination of the case has yet to be made, and your future is on the line.
The target outcome for each domestic violence case will differ between defendants, as no two are identical. Some defendants are falsely accused or were protecting themselves when domestic violence occurred. In such cases, dismissal or acquittal may be the only acceptable outcome. Still, in others where the evidence in the defendant's favor is not strong, a reduction in charges via a plea bargain may be a more appropriate and pragmatic outcome.
What are Plea Bargains?
Plea bargains are pre-trial arrangements between the prosecution and the criminal defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or to have the other, more consequential charges dropped. Sometimes, New Jersey state prosecutors may recommend the method to the defense to save the government's time and money in lengthy, expensive jury trials.
A plea bargain is not a wise option if a defendant is innocent and wrongfully accused or their attorney feels the charges will not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants shouldn't be pressured into accepting responsibility for allegations they didn't commit. Once you take a plea bargain, you will give up your rights to a trial by jury and the subsequent appellate process.
However, if your attorney decides that the evidence provided by the prosecution is enough to compel a jury, a plea bargain may be the best option. Depending upon the nature of the charges, it can keep you out of jail.
How Can a Plea Bargain Alter Your Fate in a Domestic Violence Case?
New Jersey will sanction domestic violence based on the grade of the criminal activity. The indictable offenses that may pertain to such as case are as follows:
- Fourth degree: Includes in-person or online harassment, which carries penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third degree: Entails aggravated sexual contact, which may be punished by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
- Second degree: Involves threats of physical harm but not life-threatening injuries, which bring penalties of five to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
- First degree: Includes sexual assault, which is punishable by a prison term from 10 to 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000
In some cases, accepting a plea bargain may not even include jail time. Your attorney may be able to negotiate away from a felony conviction for a guilty plea for lesser, disorderly persons offenses like:
- Criminal trespass
- Disorderly conduct
- Simple assault
Even though the plea bargain will still place a conviction on your record, the reduced charges will likely carry lighter penalties, and there is less of a stigma attached. Indictable offense convictions lead to a permanent criminal record that anyone running a routine background check can easily access. Therefore, it severely hinders educational opportunities, future employment, and professional licenses.
How Can Attorney Joseph D. Lento Help?
If you're wondering whether a plea bargain will help your domestic violence case outcome, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm will work with you to determine if your best interests are served through a strong defense or a plea bargain for a lesser punishment. Partner with a proven attorney by calling 888-535-3686 today or visiting the confidential online consultation form.