Dealing With a Criminal Misdemeanor in Georgia
If you are charged with a misdemeanor in Georgia, you might not know what your legal options are. The office of ALJ can help. Call us now for a consultation.
What Is a Misdemeanor in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, a misdemeanor is any offense other than a felony. While such offenses are considerably less serious than felonies, they also attract significant penalties upon conviction, including payment of fines and a possible jail sentence.
Sometimes, a simple misdemeanor offense could be upgraded to a more severe and aggravated version or even a felony. This happens in specific circumstances, including where the suspect is a repeat offender. In such cases, the defendant would face more severe penalties for the upgraded offense.
If you or your loved one have been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime in Georgia, it is essential that you understand the position of the law on such crimes and the possible penalties that you might face if convicted.
Misdemeanor offenses are serious, and it is essential that you do all you can to defend yourself and avoid a misdemeanor conviction. The information here can offer some insight into your charges, so you’ll know what you’re up against as you prepare your defense. Read on to learn more about Georgia misdemeanors and how a criminal law attorney can help defend you.
Types of Misdemeanors in Georgia
The Georgia Code distinguishes between misdemeanor crimes depending on their nature and severity as follows:
A forcible misdemeanor is any crime involving physical force, violence, or the threat of such force or violence against any person. Although the law does not provide specific examples of such offenses, it can be inferred that any crime not designated as a felony that involves violence or the threat of it may be classified as a forcible misdemeanor.
High and Aggravated Misdemeanors
A misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature has the same meaning as an ‘ordinary’ misdemeanor under the Georgia Code; that is, any crime other than a felony.
The difference is that high and aggravated misdemeanor(s) represent more severe versions of regular misdemeanors, usually because they involve a special class of persons or because the defendant is a repeat offender.
Some of the circumstances in which a misdemeanor is upgraded to a high and aggravated variant under Georgia criminal law include the following:
- The accused has two prior convictions for the same crime: To deter repeat offenders, the Georgia Code makes subsequent convictions for the same criminal offenses more severe. For example, a third DUI conviction is classified as a high and aggravated misdemeanor. This is as against first and second DUI convictions, which are classified as ‘regular’ misdemeanors.
- A person facing high and aggravated DUI charges would have to deal with more severe penalties. They would likely benefit from the services of a DUI Lawyer who can help them establish a suitable defense or possibly help them reduce their charges in court.
- The accused committed a crime against a police officer: For example, it is a high and aggravated misdemeanor to project or point a laser device against a law enforcement officer without their permission.
- The accused assaulted a person specially protected by law: Simple assaults are classified as misdemeanors under the Georgia Code. But if the assault occurs against a public school employee in the course of their official duties, a pregnant woman, a former spouse, or another relative in a domestic setting, then it becomes a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
In other circumstances, a misdemeanor crime may be charged as a high and aggravated offense. If you’re facing high and aggravated assault charges in Georgia, you can contact a skilled assault & battery lawyer to defend you in court.
When Does a Misdemeanor Become a Felony?
Felonies, including a murder charge, are the most serious offenses in Georgia and attract severe penalties, including life imprisonment. In some cases, some misdemeanor offenses may be charged as felonies. In most cases, this occurs when the accused has been convicted of the same crime several times, just like in the case of high and aggravated misdemeanors.
For example, shoplifting under the Georgia Code is a misdemeanor. But, if the accused has three prior shoplifting convictions, the fourth conviction or any subsequent offense would lead to a felony conviction.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Crimes in Georgia
The penalties for misdemeanor crimes generally include the following:
Payment of a fine of not more than $1000
Imprisonment in a county jail or county correctional institution for not more than 12 months
If the misdemeanor involves a traffic offense, the punishment could include driver recertification and attendance of a mandatory driver defense course approved by the Department of Driver Services.
Penalties for High and Aggravated Misdemeanor Offenses
The punishment is different if the misdemeanor is of a high and aggravated nature. For such convictions, the penalties include the following:
Payment of a fine up to $5000
Confinement in the county jail/correctional institution for up to 12 months
The sentencing court also has the power to suspend, amend, adjust or probate sentences in all cases of high and aggravated misdemeanors. But this does not include the power to increase a sentence beyond the prescribed maximum.
Other penalties may only apply to specific misdemeanor charges. For example, a DUI or reckless driving offense may lead to a driver’s license suspension. This is in addition to jail time or other general penalties that the judge may impose.
These penalties and a conviction record can make life unbearable. Misdemeanor convictions will be included on your criminal record and can affect your ability to secure employment, housing, or otherwise move on with your life even after serving your sentence. To avoid this, you’ll need to do all you can to defend yourself during your trial.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you’re facing misdemeanor charges in Georgia, having a lawyer represent you throughout your case might be all you need to get out of the case unscathed.
With their knowledge and experience, your attorney can defend you and get the charges against you dismissed or reduced where possible. This approach offers you a better chance at escaping a criminal conviction than going it alone without legal representation.
So, regardless of how unserious your misdemeanor charge might seem, consider hiring a criminal defense attorney that can take care of any surprises that the prosecution might spring during the trial.
If you have further questions about Georgia misdemeanors and general criminal defense, we can help at the Office of ALJ. We understand the frustrations of dealing with the criminal justice system all by yourself, and our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys is ready to advise, assist and represent you according to your needs.
Contact us today for answers and possible solutions to your criminal case. Let us find a way out together.