Understanding the Georgia Legal System: Pretrial Conferences

There are various stages in a criminal case, varying from arrest, arraignment, trial, and conviction. A pretrial conference occurs before the start of a trial.  Keep reading to learn more about pretrial conferences, what happens during the conference, and the role of an attorney during the conference.

What is a pretrial conference?

A pretrial conference is a meeting between the prosecutor, defense, and the judge before a trial to discuss the necessary steps to move the matter to trial or resolve the case.

What happens during a pretrial conference?

O.C.G.A. § 9-11-16 states that, during a pretrial conference, the court will ask the prosecutor and defense to appear to discuss:

  1. Simplifying the issues in the case;
  2. Amending the pleadings;
  3. Obtaining admissions about the facts and other documents in the case;
  4. Limiting the number of expert witnesses in the case; or
  5. Other matters that help the case move forward.

In other words, what happens during a pretrial conference depends on the developments of the case. If the prosecutor and the defense had an opportunity to talk before the conference, the matter might reach a resolution at the pretrial conference. For example, if the defense and prosecutor agree to a plea, the judge may set a date to enter a plea during the conference.  

The defense and prosecutor may also announce that the case is ready for trial. However, the parties may agree that the case is not ready for trial. In that case, the judge, prosecutor, and defense will establish what must be completed to encourage a resolution – whether that be a plea or a different resolution.

What happens after a pretrial conference?

After a pretrial conference, different steps may be taken depending on the case. For example, the case may go to trial, or a plea may be entered. If the case is a civil matter, the judge may refer the matter to arbitration or mediation, in which case both parties must participate in the arbitration or mediation to encourage settlement.

What is the role of an attorney during a pretrial conference?

It is very important that you have a criminal defense attorney during your pretrial conference to encourage a fair and just resolution in your case. Your attorney will present relevant issues to ensure the judge has the necessary information to decide what steps must be taken.   

Do I have to attend?

Usually not, unless the judge specifically requests it. Your attorney may encourage you to attend if decisions that impact your rights will be discussed, such as entering a plea.

Questions? Give me a call.

Having an attorney during a pretrial conference is important to encourage a resolution in your case and discuss important steps moving forward. I have decades of criminal law experience and will advocate on your behalf at each stage of your case to make sure we reach the best resolution. If you need a criminal defense attorney or have legal questions, give me a call today!

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