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Georgia residents may be familiar with a strategy used by criminal defense attorneys known as plea bargaining or plea negotiation. As the term suggests, plea bargaining is an effort in which a criminal defense attorney works with a prosecutor to obtain a lesser charge for his or her client. It can be done at court in the prosecutor's office or over the telephone. Plea negotiations could also help a defendant avoid trial, which may otherwise end up in a conviction on a more serious charge. There are three types of plea bargaining negotiations: charge bargaining, sentence bargaining and fact bargaining.

Charge bargaining is a commonly used plea form. In charge bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge. If the prosecutor accepts the guilty plea, the defendant will then have the more serious charges dismissed. The prosecutor's decision is generally subject to approval by the court.

In sentence bargaining, the defendant will enter a plea of guilty to the stated charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. Sentence bargaining can help the prosecution avoid a trial, and it can benefit a defendant who was worried about a harsher penalty being imposed. The least common form of plea negotiation is fact bargaining in which the defendant admits to certain facts in exchange for the prosecution's agreement not to use certain additional facts as evidence in the case.

Those who are facing criminal charges might consider contacting a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with these types of negotiations. Most criminal cases are resolved without going to trial, and many judges and prosecutors prefer to have some charges resolved by negotiations so that the calendar can be cleared for more important cases.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation", Sept. 6, 2016

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