Georgia Plea Bargain & Plea Negotiation Attorney

The majority of criminal cases never end up going to trial. In fact, most criminal cases are settled out of court in a process called plea bargaining. For many criminal defendants, negotiating and accepting a plea bargain can lead to a favorable outcome in the case. The attorneys of Fennell, Briasco & Associates™ understand how to secure a deal that maximizes your freedom and minimizes the risk of jail time. If you have been recently arrested or charged with a crime, you need strong legal representation that can negotiate against the toughest prosecutors in metro Atlanta. For a free criminal defense consultation contact us at (770) 956-4030.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is a deal between the defendant and the prosecution. In exchange for a lighter sentence or lesser charges, the defendant may accept the prosecution’s offer to admit guilt on some criminal charges. A plea bargain is a contract that is negotiated by the parties prior to trial, and if approved by the court, the terms of the plea bargain become binding on both parties. Once a plea bargain is accepted and approved, the defendant must abide by the terms of the plea bargain and the prosecution may not withdraw its offer to institute lighter sentencing.
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How do plea bargains work?

Most criminal defense lawyers have working relationships with local prosecutors. Prior to trial, a criminal defense attorney may contact the prosecutor, assistant district attorney, or assistant solicitor that has been assigned to the case. The parties may then schedule a pre-trial conference, where the defendant and the prosecution will discuss the charges brought against the defendant, the evidence in the case, and the likelihood of success for each party. The parties may also discuss alternatives to trial, including plea bargains, pretrial diversion, and other legal options. In most cases, the judge is not present during plea bargain negotiations.

Under the Georgia Uniform Rules of the Superior Courts, plea bargains are not automatically effective. Instead, once the parties reach an agreement, the plea bargain must then be approved by the court. The prosecutor will submit the negotiated plea bargain to the court. Then, in the interest of judicial efficiency, the judge can properly grant a more lenient sentence against the defendant if the defendant enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. For a valid plea agreement, Rule 33.6 of the Georgia Uniform Rules requires that the defendant (i.e., the person against whom charges are brought) agrees to the following terms:

Should I take a plea bargain?

For thousands of criminal defendants in Georgia, plea bargains can be the fastest, most efficient, and cost-effective method for resolving a criminal offense. Plea bargains can be mutually beneficial for both sides—the prosecution can effectively reduce its caseload, while the defendant can seek a speedy resolution to the criminal proceedings. Because every case is different, the criminally accused should always weigh the potential costs and benefits of accepting (or not accepting) a plea bargain. Plea bargains can be most effective for those who (1) are likely to be convicted at trial, (2) have strong evidence against them, (3) are facing long-term jail time or prison sentences, or (4) are willing to cooperate with the prosecution to take down other criminal offenders. Always consult an attorney about whether accepting a plea bargain might be the right option for you.

Cost vs. Benefits of a Plea Bargain

Plea negotiations usually require some form of penalty against the defendant that is much less severe than the penalty that the defendant could face if they lose at trial. The costs and benefits of negotiating a plea versus going to trial must always be understood by the defendant. Often, when a case has little or no chance of being dismissed before trial, or the defendant has very little chance at being acquitted at trial, then a plea option may be the best alternative to minimize the consequences of a criminal conviction. This is a very serious decision, and the defendant always has the final say about whether to accept a plea bargain or push ahead to trial. Finding a legal advocate who is capable of aggressive advocacy, while maintaining professional decorum, will provide clients with the greatest number of options and increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable resolution.

What do I have to do for a plea bargain?

Plea bargains may require the defendant to take additional corrective or rehabilitative measures in lieu of additional jail time or incarceration. For example, a plea bargain may require the defendant to comply with:

Alcohol & Drug Evaluations: For crimes like DUIs and drug possession, the defendant may be required to submit to an alcohol & drug evaluation. Independent evaluators will assess the defendant for signs of alcohol dependence or drug addiction, and then make recommendations to the prosecution about potential treatment options. The defendant may be required to undergo drug screening or to attend meetings with specialists or treatment advisers.

Risk Reduction Programs: Risk reduction programs may require the defendant’s successful completion of a diversion program, defensive driving course, or other intervention program to reduce the chances of a future offense. For DUI arrests in Georgia, many defendants must complete a “DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program” administered by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

Community Service: One of the primary jobs of the criminal justice system is to reintegrate offenders back into the community. At times, prosecutors may require that the defendant complete a certain number of community service hours to comply with the terms of the plea bargain. Community service is often found in plea bargains for first-time offenders and young adults.

House Arrest: As an alternative to jail time or incarceration, the parties may negotiate a plea bargain that requires the defendant to comply with the terms of house arrest. To enforce the terms of house arrest, the courts may impose electronic tracking devices like ankle monitors.

What happens if I don’t accept a plea bargain?

A defendant is never required to accept a plea bargain. If the evidence against the defendant is weak or flimsy, the defendant may be best served by going to trial. However, if you end up going to trial and lose, the judge may issue even harsher penalties or sentencing. While this may seem unfair, this is perfectly legal under Georgia law. The courts encourage parties to settle criminal cases in pretrial negotiations, rather than resorting to the time-consuming processes of trial. If you reject a plea bargain and later lose your case, you may end up with an even harsher penalty than before.
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Find A Lawyer to Represent You

At Fennell, Briasco & Associates™, our criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience working in Georgia criminal courts. In counties across the North Metro Atlanta area, we know who to talk to and how to negotiate a deal that will lead you to the best chances for freedom and success. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Georgia, call us today to discuss your options for how to negotiate a plea bargain.  (770) 956-4030



(770) 956-4030