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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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Is It Better to Settle a Criminal Case or Go to Trial?

New Jersey criminal defense lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges in New Jersey, the consequences of a conviction could be severe. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a conviction at trial could result in significant prison time and heavy fines. That’s why many defendants in criminal cases look to settle prior to trial. However, it can be very difficult to negotiate a favorable plea deal with a prosecutor who is intent on seeking maximum penalties.

The best way to combat an aggressive prosecutor is to hire an aggressive, experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the NJ legal system and is familiar with the local courts. A qualified lawyer can seek the best deal possible on your behalf and advise you about the ramifications of either accepting the plea offer or fighting the charges at trial.

Should You Accept a Plea Deal?

Of course, the exact circumstances of your case will dictate whether it is advisable to accept a plea deal or try to beat the charges in court. The first thing you need to do is speak with your attorney and figure out exactly how strong the evidence is. For instance, your attorney may look over the details of your case and determine that the evidence against you is extremely weak and/or likely to be ruled inadmissible at trial. It may even be possible for your attorney to get the prosecution to drop the charges prior to trial.

Ultimately, you will need to make a decision that you are comfortable with. It may be the case that the State is offering you a favorable plea deal because they know the evidence is weak. Or it may be the case that the State is attempting to resolve the case prior to trial because they need to clear their docket. Your attorney should be able to help you negotiate with the prosecutor and help you determine whether the plea agreement really is in your best interests.

Dealing with a Criminal Record

Another factor you will have to consider when deciding whether to settle your criminal case is the presence of a conviction on your permanent record. That’s because a guilty plea to a criminal charge will leave you with a criminal record. This could have severe consequences for your long-term future and affect your job prospects. However, it may still be possible for an attorney to get the record of your conviction expunged at a later date. This is something you will want to discuss with your lawyer before you make any final decisions about accepting a plea deal and settling your criminal case prior to trial.

Additionally, depending on the nature of the crime that you ultimately plead guilty to, there could be other serious consequences. For instance, pleading guilty to certain sex offenses may result in you having to register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of your life, while pleading guilty to certain felony-level offenses may lead to you being stripped of your voting rights.


If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Atlantic County, NJ, it is imperative that you have a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side throughout the legal process. The experienced, aggressive criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you fight your criminal charges and avoid prison time. Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation.

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