Criminal Defense Topics
What is a Plea Bargain or Plea Deal?
A plea bargain is a negotiated, formal agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant's defense lawyer. The agreement is made based on the accused entering a guilty plea or nolo contendre (no contest) plea in exchange for breaks on charges or terms of sentencing. Some plea deals allow for reduced charges, dismissal of certain (extra) charges, and more leniency in the punishment.
Are Plea Deals Negotiable?
Yes, a plea deal is absolutely negotiable. The entire opportunity of a plea deal is to haggle over how the situation plays out. Within reason, the terms of the plea deal can be anything on which the defense and prosecutor agree.
The prosecutor does have the ability to refuse any discussions about a plea deal. Ultimately, the prosecutor wants a negotiation that gets a guilty plea and the defense wants the most lenient sentence that is possible. The area between those two points is where both sides have to agree on the charges accepted, fines, probation, incarceration, possibility of parole, etc.
Types of Plea Deals
- Charge Bargaining refers to a situation where the accused pleads guilty to a lesser charge and avoids a jury trial.
- Count Bargaining refers to a situation where the accused pleads guilty to a subset of multiple original charges and avoids a jury trial.
- Sentence Bargaining refers to a situation where the accused pleads guilty ahead of formal sentencing. The expectation here is receiving a lighter sentence than what would normally be expected. Although there is no jury trial, a judge can deny the negotiated plea.
- Fact Bargaining refers to a situation where the accused pleads guilty but the prosecutor agrees to to affirm or concede specific facts that may impact the sentence received.
Pros and Cons of Plea Deals
What Should You Do?
Plea vs Trial
In many cases, especially where the evidence against the accused is overwhelming, it may make sense to make a plea bargain. This can give the accused a little more control of the outcome versus a trial with an unpredictable jury. A trial, although expensive, may be the best option is the evidence is largely in favor of the accused achieving a not guilty verdict. Choosing between plea or trial can be a tough decision. Your lawyer can explain how a plea deal works and help you to understand what is best for your particular circumstances.
First Offender Program
Georgia has a First Offender Program (a diversion program) that can remove minor criminal matters from the normal criminal justice process. This option can requires the accused to plead guilty and complete a set of requirements to settle the matter. The case will not go to court. If the defendant successfully completes the program the case will be closed with no permanent criminal record.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime you need to hire an expert defense lawyer. Call us at 770-956-1400 to arrange a confidential discussion about your situation and get answers to your questions.