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What’s involved in a plea bargain?

Most Georgia criminal defendants want to get their charges dropped or dismissed; or, they want to achieve a verdict of “not guilty.” But sometimes, these results are either not possible or extremely unlikely.

When a “guilty” verdict is likely, defendants should explore the possibility of reaching a plea bargain. A plea bargain usually involves pleading guilty to lesser charges in exchange for some kind of benefit — like a reduced sentence or a reduced punishment. Some defendants can use a plea deal to avoid jail time or gain other types of benefits.

Here are three ways that a defendant might reach a plea bargain:

Pleading guilty to a lesser offense: The prosecuting attorney contacts the defense attorney with a plea offer. For example, the prosecutor might let the defendant plead guilty to a reduced charge that comes with a less extreme punishment. Instead of facing assault or battery charges in court, the defendant accepts a disorderly conduct conviction instead.

Pleading guilty to one count and dropping the other: Maybe a defendant is facing charges of DUI and reckless driving. The prosecution agrees to let the defendant plead guilty to reckless driving in exchange for dropping the DUI charge.

Pleading guilty in exchange for a less severe sentence: Perhaps a defendant is facing a theft charge. Rather than denying the charge, the defendant pleads guilty to it. By pleading guilty, the defendant can benefit from a less severe punishment.

How a plea bargain helps both sides of a case

A plea bargain helps the prosecution in several ways. For one, every prosecutor is overloaded with litigation responsibilities. Removing a case from his or her docket will free up time to spend on other cases.

Also, bypassing the costs of litigation will help the government save money on legal costs while guaranteeing at least some kind of conviction. The plea bargain also helps defendants by saving them money on litigation costs, resolving their cases faster and guaranteeing a better result than they might have been able to achieve at trial.

If you’re facing criminal charges, make sure you take the time to learn about plea bargains and Georgia criminal law. This knowledge might help you achieve a better result in your case.