In New Jersey, the prosecutor may choose to place a criminal charge on a few different paths. For example, in some instances, the prosecutor may elect to send a charge directly to the indictment phase. This means that the case goes to a grand jury and the case will either be indicted or “no billed.” A indictment simply means that the grand jury has heard the State’s best version of its proofs and made a decision that there is enough to proceed with the case. An indictment is not a conviction.
In other cases, the State may elect to put the case on another tract prior to sending it to the grand jury. This is typically called a pre-indictment or pre-disposition conference. In this instance, your lawyer has the opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor prior to indictment. The benefit to the defendant is the ability of your lawyer to negotiate the best possible plea offer before the case is indicted ( because the plea offers are typically worse post-indictment). At this “earlier” phase your attorney can also present many of the defenses that you may have which may persuade the State to provide a very good offer if there are trial proof issues. Although this can be accomplished later in the case, the general rule in NJ is that the best offer is the first offer. Pre-indictment conferences give counsel a great opportunity to get great results early on in a criminal matter.
A pre-arraignment conference is simply a court date after the case has been indicted. The case will typically be much further along at this juncture, and it may be that the defendant was presented with a pre-indictment offer and rejected it.
If you need clarification on this process, please contact me.