What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in Georgia?

In Georgia, the main difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the amount of time behind bars. Any crime that carries a sentence of more than 12 months is a felony. Additionally, felonies are more serious than misdemeanors.

What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are crimes that carry a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum of 12 months in jail. More serious misdemeanors may have more serious penalties. Georgia does not have “degrees” or “classes” of crimes, but it does recognize “high and aggravated misdemeanors,” which can carry additional fines (up to $5,000) but not additional jail time.

Some examples of misdemeanors are public intoxication, DUIs, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and theft of less than $500 of property.

Prosecutors and criminal courts may use their discretion when it comes to fines and sentencing, but they cannot charge a defendant more than $1,000 nor sentence them to more than 12 months in jail for a misdemeanor crime.

What Are the Penalties for a Felony?

Any crime that is not a misdemeanor is a felony, and the penalties for felonies can range wildly in Georgia. Felonies can carry 1 year or up to 20 years in prison. Capital felonies can even carry a life sentence or result in the death penalty.

Felonies include everything from drug crimes and theft to rape and murder, although rape and murder are usually considered capital offenses.

Again, prosecutors and criminal courts may use their discretion when it comes to sentencing. Because Georgia does not categorize crimes by class, degree, or level, felonies and capital felonies are the most serious crimes a defendant can commit.

Is it More Important to Have a Lawyer for a Felony?

No. Having a lawyer is important anytime you are charged with a crime.

While there may be more at stake in felony cases, both misdemeanor and felony charges can leave you with a criminal record. Having a criminal record in Georgia can make it more difficult for you to go to school, get a job, rent an apartment, and buy a house. Certain convictions can even take away your ability to drive or require you to register as a sex offender.

If you are charged with either a misdemeanor or felony, seek legal help immediately. Our team at Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. provides dedicated, honest representation, and we are only a phone call away. Collectively, we have been helping clients with criminal defense matters for more than 150 years, and we are ready to hear your story during a free and confidential consultation.

Call us at (770) 629-0154 or contact us online to schedule yours today.