I've written a few different posts about the Georgia Criminal Process over the past month. Something that can be very confusing to understand is how (other than Jury Trial or Bench Trial) a case can be resolved. Not all cases go to trial in order to reach resolution. So many criminal cases end up reaching resolution through plea bargains in Georgia.
What is a plea bargain?
A plea bargain is a pre-trial arrangement between the prosecution (the state of Georgia) and a defendant (the accused person) where the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge or an agreement for less punishment for the same charges. It is an agreement between the parties.
However, the judge is not part of the agreement and can sentence a person to any punishment allowed by the law. If the judge alters the agreement, the defendant has a right to withdraw his or her plea.
Plea bargains are usually negotiated by you or your attorney with the prosecutor. Your Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer will work with them to reach a resolution in your case.
What happens after the plea bargain process?
After the plea agreement is settled, the prosecutor will present that agreement to the judge assigned to your case. The judge isn't actually involved in any part of the plea bargain process, so it must be presented for his or her approval.
It's important to note that the prosecutor has no say in whether or not the judge approves of the plea agreement even though both parties agree to it.
The judge will want to know three different components during his or her decision-making process.
- The defendant knowingly waived his or her rights.
- The defendant voluntarily waived his or her rights.
- There is a factual basis to support the charges to which the defendant is pleading guilty.
If all three components are satisfying to the judge, then the judge will probably accept the plea agreement.
Why would I make a plea bargain?
There are always incentives for both parties. For defendants, a plea bargain can save time and money. For prosecutors, a plea bargain can ease up their caseload. For judges, a plea bargains free up their dockets.
Is an attorney necessary in the plea-bargaining process?
The quick answer is no. But remember that ANY agreement needs to be well thought out and well understood. It needs to be extremely clear what you are agreeing to do, and the consequences that comes along with it. This will require a technical knowledge and understanding of Georgia Criminal Law and the corresponding sentencing guidelines. It is extremely difficult to make an appropriate bargain without proper legal training. It is in your best interest to hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Georgia, contact us today.