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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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What’s a Plea Bargain?

New Jersey criminal defense lawyer

When a person is charged with a crime in New Jersey, there is often a lengthy legal process that has to play out before the case reaches trial. The reality is that most criminal cases never actually go to trial in NJ because the defendants reach plea deals with prosecutors. Typically, the prosecution will agree to reduce the charges and/or recommend lighter penalties in exchange for the defendant agreeing to enter a guilty plea.

The plea bargaining process can be extremely complicated and will almost certainly require the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in NJ, your best chance of getting the charges dropped or reduced and avoiding the most severe penalties is to have a qualified attorney on your side throughout the process.

The Plea Bargaining Process in New Jersey

Sometimes a defendant is charged with multiple crimes stemming from the same incident. Prosecutors often file multiple charges in order to gain an advantage during plea negotiations. Additionally, prosecutors sometimes file enhanced charges so that they will be in a better bargaining position when the time comes to reduce the charges. For instance, if you are facing 10 years in prison for a second degree felony, you might be more willing to accept a plea deal that calls for you to plead guilty to a third degree felony.

Despite the fact that prosecutors can file trumped-up charges to gain leverage during plea bargaining, defendants still have their own form of leverage. That’s because prosecutors rarely want to take their cases to trial. In fact, prosecutors can’t take every case to trial because the NJ court docket is already overcrowded and trials can take a very long time and exhaust a lot of resources. So prosecutors have to make deals and plea bargain, too.

Avoiding Jail by Negotiating a Plea Deal

One way for your attorney to “win” the plea negotiations is to work out a deal that calls for the prosecutor to reduce the criminal charges against you. Another strategy during plea negotiations is to try to get the prosecutor to agree to recommend a lesser sentence than is called for by the statute. In the best cases, it may even be possible to get the prosecutor to recommend a probationary sentence so that the defendant can avoid jail entirely.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, your lawyer might be able to negotiate a plea deal with the State that allows you to enter an alternative sentencing program, such as Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), Conditional Discharge, or Drug Court. These programs are focused on rehabilitation, so the defendant is usually able to stay out of jail so long as they meet certain requirements. A major benefit to alternative sentencing is that the defendant avoids getting a criminal conviction on their permanent record.


If you face criminal charges in Atlantic County, NJ, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side and assisting you throughout the legal process. The experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you negotiate with the prosecution and fight your criminal charges. Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation.

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