A February 22, 2016 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court will allow prosecutors to have more control over the plea bargaining stage.
The Supreme Court of Georgia on Monday ruled that a judge cannot impose a sentence on a defendant lighter than a prosecutor has recommended without the prosecutor’s consent—a victory for prosecutors that reverses a ruling last year by the state Court of Appeals.
In a 6-1 ruling written by Justice Carol Hunstein, the high court concluded that in plea bargains, trial judges cannot accept a defendant’s guilty plea to a crime less serious than the one for which the defendant was indicted, unless prosecutors agree. If prosecutors object to a lesser sentence proposed by a judge, they have the authority to withdraw the negotiated plea deal and take the case to trial.
The lone dissenting judge, Justice Robert Benham, objected, writing that, “Until today, a defendant in Georgia has entered into plea negotiations with the understanding that the judge has the final say as to sentencing. … Until today, the law in Georgia has been that a defendant, but not the prosecutor, may withdraw a guilty plea upon learning the trial judge has determined that the sentence should be something other than that which was agreed upon.”
If a judge proposes a lesser sentence or a lesser crime during a negotiated plea bargaining and the prosecutor objects, then the prosecutor can take the plea away and proceed to trial.
More of this story can be found here (Courtesy of the Daily Report)