In the State of Georgia the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony can be described simply. Being charged with a less serious crime versus being charged with one that is more serious. A misdemeanor being the minor offense and a felony being the more serious offense.
What is a Felony?
A felony in Georgia is as a crime that carries a sentence guideline of more than 12 months. Georgia does not have degrees of felonies but rather follows suit with a small number of states which do not categorize crimes by class, degree or level. Most felonies carry a punishment range of 1 to 20 years in prison. The most egregious crimes, capital crimes, carry a life sentence and can even carry the death penalty. A felony sentence is served in the state prison system.
What is a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, and they carry a maximum fine of $1000 (but this can vary) and a maximum of 12 months in jail. Misdemeanors are further broken down by the gravity and severity of the crime. Some are categorized as ‘High and Aggravated Misdemeanors.’ This type of misdemeanor carries heavier penalties as compared to a ‘simple’ misdemeanor, notably a fine of up to $5000. Other states, like South Carolina, have misdemeanors sorted by class and with heavier penalties and Michigan distinguishes some misdemeanors by potential jail time. Misdemeanor sentences are served in local or county jails not in a state penitentiary.
Which crimes are Misdemeanors or Felonies
Most crimes, whether Felonies or Misdemeanors fall under the following categories:
Crimes against a person:
- The most common of these types of crimes fall under felonies
- These crimes include Homicide, Kidnapping, aggravated Assault, and aggravated Battery
- Certain types of Assault and Battery can be categorized as misdemeanor
- All forms of arson are considered felonies
- All forms of trespassing are considered misdemeanors
- Theft Crimes range in punishment based on the value of the loss (generally over $500 will be a felony) – see below for more of a breakdown
- Prostitution is considered a misdemeanor and if convicted comes with a fine of up to $1000 and up to 12 months in a local jail facility
- Sex crimes, such as child Molestation, sexual assault, rape, etc. are felonies and sentences vary depending on the facts alleged
Crimes involving theft:
- Crimes of this nature vary extensively based on prior convictions, value of goods stolen, and severity
- Armed or unarmed robbery are both felonies, as is burglary
- Some other forms of crimes involving theft can be categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors depending on the times convicted or value of goods stolen (generally $500 is the cutoff for felonies)
Crimes involving DUI:
- An individual charged with their first or second DUI convictions are considered ‘simple’ misdemeanors, while the third conviction is a ‘High and Aggravated Misdemeanor’ which can mean a fine up to $5000
- The fourth conviction becomes a felony
- A conviction as a minor for a crime involving a vehicle results in a suspension or revoked license.
Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors and Felonies
Felonies have longer statutes of limitations because of their severity. Felonies committed against victims younger than 18 can generally carry time limits of 7 years. For felony crimes committed against adults the limits are 4 years. Misdemeanors generally carry limits of 2 years.
Felony or Misdemeanor convictions carry additional consequences. Convictions can go beyond fines, penalties, or time served. Certain drug and driving convictions can lead to a suspension or revocation of a person’s driver’s license. Sex crimes involve registration (sometimes for life). Interest on certain loans could increase and you can be denied loans by certain institutions. With a felony conviction, you lose the right to possess a firearm, the right to hold public office, serve on a jury and the right to vote.
Georgia DUI laws also stipulate certain court related consequences like probation, court mandated education programs, and community service.
Misdemeanor or felony Drug or alcohol convictions for minors can also negatively affect college prospects including admission, financial aid and denial of the Hope scholarship.
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