Few things are more frightening than facing criminal charges, and rightfully so. Regardless of whether you committed a crime, being charged with one can destroy your family, your ability to work, and your finances — in short, it can destroy your life. Conviction in a court of law could mean loss of freedom, large fines, or both. The government has almost limitless resources to pursue whomever they think is guilty, regardless of the truth and without consideration of mitigating circumstances.
In criminal law, there is a common practice which is sometimes called “up-charging.” In District Attorney’s offices, it is customary that the lawyers will look at the charges brought by law enforcement officers, look at the officer’s reports, and try to find as many additional violations of the law as possible. These additional violations are then presented to the Grand Jury, a group of citizens assembled to hear only the State’s side of cases and decide if there is enough evidence to support an indictment.
There’s a common saying: “The DA can get the Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Why do we say that? Because it’s almost always true that the Grand Jury will indict any case the DA presents. So while you may have been arrested on one charge, after your case is processed by the DA’s office, and presented to a Grand Jury, you may come to court to find that there are now 2, 4, 6, or even more charges against you on an indictment. The goal of up-charging is to push individuals who have been charged with committing crimes to plead guilty, usually to higher sentences than they would agree to if they weren’t facing so many charges against them. Up the charges, up the stakes, and scare people into guilty pleas, high fines, and prison time.
Prosecutors push guilty pleas because if you plead guilty, not only are you admitting guilt, but also you are giving up the right to argue your innocence in later appeals. You are giving up your right to appeal to the sufficiency of the evidence against you, how the evidence was obtained, and whether you may have had any justifications for your actions. You are giving up countless Constitutional rights. If you are not an American citizen, you may be giving up your right to stay in this country.
In every criminal case, the decision to enter a guilty plea should be made only after a thorough examination of the evidence against you…not because a prosecutor piled on extra charges.
You need an experienced attorney who has dealt first-hand with criminal cases, at the bargaining table and in court. Lauren Deal was a Middle Georgia prosecutor for more than 8 years. As a prosecutor, she participated in every step of the criminal case process. Lauren worked with law enforcement officers, who consulted with her before they took warrants to discuss which charges best fit their evidence. She participated in countless preliminary hearings, bond negotiations, pre-trial diversions, grand juries, arraignments, motions to suppress, pre-trial motions hearings, and guilty pleas. Lauren prosecuted — and won — jury trials ranging from DUIs and thefts to major felonies, including armed robbery and murder. She also argued motions for new trials, and wrote appellate briefs, following convictions. She participated in probation revocations, often negotiating lesser sentences than probation officers offered.
As a former prosecutor, Lauren can evaluate your case from BOTH sides to find strengths and weaknesses in the evidence against you. She will defend your rights at every step in the criminal case process, and she will hold the prosecution accountable to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.