Are You Underestimating the Severity of Misdemeanor Charges?

The unfortunate reality is that a momentary lapse in judgment or a simple misunderstanding can result in a person being placed in handcuffs and taken to the local precinct for booking.

As stressful as this scenario can be, the person who is arrested may sometimes feel relieved to learn that the criminal offense with which they are being charged is not a felony, but rather a misdemeanor.

While it is indeed preferable to not face felony charges, it’s still incredibly important for a person not to underestimate the severity of misdemeanor charges.

How does Georgia classify misdemeanors?

The law in Georgia provides that misdemeanors are divided into two categories: misdemeanors generally, and misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature.

What’s the difference between the two?

The primary difference between misdemeanors generally — or simply misdemeanors — and misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature is in the punishment meted out upon conviction.

Isn’t the punishment for all misdemeanors a year or less in county jail?

Yes, but consider the following. The punishment for a misdemeanor can include a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 12 months in either a state diversion center or county jail. Conversely, the punishment for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months in county jail.  

What are some examples of each?

In general, if you strike someone, you could face a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. However, if the person you strike is over 65 years-old or a family member, you could face a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature charge.

Does a person have to go to jail for either offense?

For either charge, the sentencing judge has several options at their disposal outside of ordering the person to be incarcerated for up to one year:

  • Impose but suspend the sentence such that a person serves either some time or no time behind bars
  • Impose the sentence but provide the person with the opportunity to complete probation instead of going to jail
  • Allow the person to serve their term during non-work hours and/or on weekends if the jail term is six months or less

It should be noted that any failure to follow the restrictions or conditions set forth by the judge for either probation or suspended sentences will result in the imposition of the full jail term.

What all of this serves to underscore is that misdemeanor charges should not be taken lightly. Indeed, those facing these types of charges should seriously consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their options for protecting their freedom and their future.

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