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If your case has been scheduled for a Dispositional Conference, you must be present and you will need a lawyer. Dispositional Conferences in Superior Court are usually scheduled for cases that carry a maximum potential sentence of 3½ -7 years in state prison or more. If you are unrepresented, or not properly represented, call Attorney Sweeney now for a free consultation at (603) 589-8015.

What is a Dispositional Conference?

The Dispositional Conference is a courtroom meeting between the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the judge. Prior to the Dispositional Conference, the prosecutor is expected to provide defense counsel with an initial plea offer. If the prosecutor has provided defense counsel with an initial plea offer, then defense counsel is expected to have discussed that initial plea offer with the client. When the plea offer has been provided and discussed prior to the Dispositional Conference, the lawyers will inform the judge whether (1) they have reached a plea agreement, (2) they expect to reach a plea agreement through further efforts, or (3) an agreement is unlikely and the matter should be scheduled for trial.

  1. If a plea agreement has been reached before or during the Dispositional Conference, then the court will ordinarily conduct the plea and sentencing after the list of Dispositional Conferences has been heard. In busier courts it may take until the afternoon before the judge is available to conduct the plea and sentencing. A variety of circumstances may require the scheduling of a plea and/or sentencing another day.
  2. If the lawyers inform the court that they expect to reach a plea agreement through further efforts, then court will likely schedule the case for another hearing. The court may schedule the case for another dispositional, a plea and sentencing, or a trial. Regardless of the title used for the next hearing, it may be used for a plea and sentencing if the parties come to an agreement. If the parties find that they are unable to reach a plea agreement, the case will be scheduled for trial.
  3. If the lawyers inform the court that, despite efforts by both parties to resolve the matter, an agreement is unlikely, then the court will schedule the case for a Final Pretrial Conference and Trial. Even in cases where the lawyers are not optimistic about the potential for agreement, the parties are able to find a middle ground prior to trial. Judges often set the Final Pretrial Conference as the deadline for such agreements and require the plea and sentencing to take place at the Final Pretrial Conference.

How do I prepare for a Dispositional Conference?

The client must be present at the hearing. However, the client will ordinarily remain in the back of the courtroom while the lawyers approach the judge at the “bench” and discuss the status of the case. The role of the client in the Dispositional Conference is to engage in the negotiation process through the attorney and participate in the plea and sentencing if agreement is reached.

The court will ordinarily make a scheduling order as part of the Dispositional Conference order. The scheduling order will notify the parties of the Final Pretrial Conference date, Jury Selection date, and deadlines for the filing of different types of motions. The lawyers will notify the court of any unusual issues they foresee that might impact scheduling.

Dispositional Conference hearings are usually brief. However, many Dispositional Conferences may be scheduled at the same time and vary in their ability to process large numbers of hearings scheduled simultaneously. It is best to be in the courtroom (not at the courthouse) 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin.

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    Bedford, New Hampshire 03110
    Phone: 603-589-8015