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The risk of a guilty plea when facing charges in Georgia

Anyone arrested on allegations of criminal activity in Georgia will have to make some difficult decisions. Technically, anyone accused of breaking the law benefits from the presumption of innocence. They are not guilty of a crime until a prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that they did something illegal. However, most people don’t wait for the prosecutor to present their case in court.

They give up and plead guilty because they worry about going to trial. For some people, the perceived cost of going to trial prompts them to plead guilty. For others, it may be the possibility of their story reaching the news media that makes them plead guilty. Other times, the multiple charges or particularly severe charges that a prosecutor indicts them for make them worry about the worst-case scenario at trial. What people don’t always realize when they plead guilty is that they accept a very significant risk by doing so.

A guilty plea does not automatically mean leniency

It is common for people to assume that a judge overseeing a criminal case in Georgia will be kinder to someone who pleads guilty. After all, their plea will reduce the strain on the court system because they forego a trial. However, guilty pleas are so common that they do not generally push judges toward more lenient sentences.

A judge will consider many factors when deciding what sentence to impose. Typically, they have to work within the guidelines set in Georgia state statutes. They will also look at someone’s prior criminal record and the unique details of the situation when determining what they believe would be an appropriate sentence for a defendant. A judge can easily sentence someone to the maximum penalties possible after a guilty plea.

Additionally, a guilty plea will mean that someone has a criminal record. Anytime they apply for college enrollment, financial aid, housing opportunities, volunteer positions or new jobs, that criminal record will show up during the background check process. People can find themselves denied numerous opportunities because they pleaded guilty to an offense years before.

Only those who go to trial and successfully convince the courts that they did not break the law – and those whose attorneys can get the charges against them dropped – can eliminate the worst penalties possible when facing criminal charges. Reviewing the state’s evidence and the penalties associated with a specific offense with a skilled attorney can help people choose the best approach when responding to a recent arrest.