In order to enter a guilty plea in Superior Court, the accused and his or her attorney must complete a multi-page document known as a plea form. The plea form is important because it documents many of the rights that a defendant waives when entering a guilty plea, warns the defendant of the consequences of the plea and memorializes the terms of the agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor. The plea form is signed by the defendant, the defense attorney and the prosecutor. Because it is so important, and is really designed for the benefit of the accused, the form should be written in easy-to-understand terms. Unfortunately, the form is very confusing, not well-written and really needs to be revised.
The current version of the plea forms can be accessed through the judiciary's website. An example of my point can be found right on the first page of the plea form, at question 4. Question 4, in subparts a, b and c, informs the defendant that by pleading guilty, he gives up the right to a trial at which the state would have to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to confront the witnesses and the right to remain silent. In the very next subparagraph, d, the language in the form turns very technical and starts citing provisions of court rules that no defendant will be familiar with. Subparts d and e appear to contain double negatives that do not seem to flow well with the introductory sentence of of the paragraph:
With all due respect to whoever drafted question 4, it needs work. Also, can't we do a better job drafting question 14 so it is not couched in the negative?
I think the plea form used in the federal courts of New Jersey does a much better job of conveying important information in a clearer and more organized fashion. To be more defendant-friendly and better understood by people who may have little understanding of the full impact of their guilty plea, the Superior Court plea form should be redesigned.
The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and current as of the date of publication, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.
This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk. We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability. Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein. We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.
We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.
If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at www.wilentz.com. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.