Sunday, May 18, 2014


Over the years, various unique practices and procedures have evolved in connection with
the disposition of Municipal Court cases. Thus, it is the intent of these Guidelines to
define regulated plea agreements as including every common practice that has evolved as
a subterfuge for plea agreements. Therefore, for the purpose of these Guidelines, a plea
agreement shall include all of those traditional practices, utilized by prosecutors and
defense counsel, including "merger", "dismissal", "downgrade" or "amendment."
Generally, "mergers" involve the dismissal of lesser-included or related offenses when a
defendant pleads to the most serious offense. "Dismissals" involve motions to dismiss a
pending charge or plea agreement when the municipal prosecutor determines, for cause
(usually for insufficient evidence), that the charge should be dismissed. "Downgrades" or
"amendments" involve the taking of a plea to a lesser or included offense to that
originally charged.
Plea agreements are to be distinguished from the discretion of a prosecutor to charge or
unilaterally move to dismiss, amend or otherwise dispose of a matter. It is recognized that
it is not the municipal prosecutor's function merely to seek convictions in all cases. The
prosecutor is not an ordinary advocate. Rather, the prosecutor has an obligation to
defendants, the State and the public to see that justice is done and truth is revealed in each
individual case. The goal should be to achieve individual justice in individual cases.
In discharging the diverse responsibilities of that office, a prosecutor must have some
latitude to exercise the prosecutorial discretion demanded of that position. It is well
established, for example, that a prosecutor should not prosecute when the evidence does
not support the State's charges. Further, the prosecutor should have the ability to amend
the charges to conform to the proofs.