If you are under arrest in New Jersey, learning just how serious your criminal charges are may shock you.
Overcharging refers to a scenario where law enforcement and prosecutors apply additional charges in order to pressure a defendant to accept a plea deal. As a result, the state gets a win and the defendant feels as if he or she avoided a harsher punishment. However, accused persons do not always understand how the charges unfairly impact outcomes.
Types of overcharging in criminal cases
Prosecutors know that trumped-up charges may not be winnable in court but many defendants do not. Pleading guilty undermines true justice as well as your right to a fair trial. There are two types of overcharging that occur in criminal cases:
- Horizontal overcharging: when police and prosecutors arbitrarily multiply the number of crimes the accused committed.
- Vertical overcharging: when law enforcement imposes a more serious charge than the situation warrants.
Parallel problems with overcharging
While overcharging is a common practice in the criminal justice system, it is an abuse of power. When looking at a lengthy charging document, you may have anxiety about the following issues:
- Possible jail time
- Financial hardship
- Job loss
- Broken relationships with loved ones
The prosecutor may use your fears against you in plea negotiations, leading you to plead guilty without having your day in court.
Before accepting any plea bargain offers to wrap up your case and get on with your life, it is important to understand how criminal charging works in New Jersey and whether your charges truly align with the circumstances of the events that got you arrested.