Misdemeanor charges may seem relatively harmless. For example, possessing a small amount of recreational marijuana is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia. While misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, they are not just infractions, and those charged with misdemeanors should take them seriously.
Unlike felony charges, misdemeanor charges carry a conviction of only a year or less in jail. Nonetheless, having a misdemeanor charge on your permanent record can hurt your chance at gaining gainful employment. Depending on the crime, you may serve up to a year in jail, which can negatively impact your job and family life. The best thing you can do after being charged with a misdemeanor is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will represent your best interests.
The Penalties for Misdemeanors in Georgia
Misdemeanor charges are not as serious as felonies, but they are more serious than simple infractions, such as traffic tickets. Just because law enforcement officers didn’t take you into custody, doesn’t mean that you only received an infraction. While Atlanta misdemeanor charges do not always carry serious jail time, they can carry a fine of not more than $1000.
Additionally, you may need to serve up to twelve months in a correctional institution or county jail after being convicted. Those convicted of misdemeanors may also face a fine and time in county jail, or up to a year in a state diversion center. Judges have significant discretion when it comes to misdemeanors. They have the right to impose a misdemeanor sentence but suspend the sentence by allowing a defendant not to serve some or all of the sentence.
Judges can also impose a jail sentence, while giving the defendant the option to complete formal supervision, or probation, instead of serving time in jail. Both probation and suspended sentences are conditioned on the defendant agreeing to follow the restrictions or conditions imposed by the judges. Convicted defendants can also lose their right to possess a firearm or their driving privileges.
Misdemeanors of a High and Aggravated Nature
Some misdemeanors carry higher penalties. For example, the penalty for a simple battery is less than a year of jail time. However, when the victim of battery is a person age 65 or over, or a family member, courts can impose an enhanced sentence. This enhanced sentence carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail sentence of up to 12 years. Judges also have the discretion to suspend the sentences or place them on probation due to a conviction of an enhanced misdemeanor.
Common Misdemeanor Charges in Georgia
There are many different types of misdemeanor charges under Georgia law, but some are more commonly charged than others. At Carter/Pilgrim, we’ve helped many clients succeed in fighting misdemeanor charges in the greater Atlanta area. We frequently represent clients who are charged with the following Georgia misdemeanors:
- Possession of an unlawful controlled substance, including an ounce or less of marijuana
- Violation of probation
- Simple battery
- Certain types of domestic violence offenses
- Public drunkenness
- Violation of a restraining order
- Shoplifting when the total value of the stolen property is less than $300
- Traffic violations, including speeding, and reckless driving, and traffic tickets
- Some driving under the influence charges
Expungement of a Misdemeanor Conviction from Your Record
An expungement of your misdemeanor charges can help tremendously. For example, an expungement can provide you with a chance at gainful employment. Keep in mind that courts are not required to expunge your misdemeanor conviction from your record. Instead, the expungement process happens at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney.
In many cases, defendants plead “nolo contendre.” This means that they do not want to contest the charges brought against them, and it has the same impact as a guilty plea. Courts will not expunge a guilty plea from your record, but Georgia courts will often expunge your record in the following two circumstances:
- Law enforcement officers arrested you and then released you without being charged
- Law enforcement officers arrested you and charged you, but later dropped the charges
If you would like your misdemeanor charges expunged from your record, we can help. Contact Carter/Pilgrim today. We will review your record and advise you of your legal options when it comes to expungement.
Misdemeanor DUI Charges in Georgia
At Carter/Pilgrim, our lawyers have successfully represented many clients in DUI misdemeanor charges. Under Georgia law, most first-time driving while under the influence (DUI) charges are considered misdemeanors. Most defendants face the following penalties for misdemeanor DUI charges in Georgia:
- 40 hours of community service
- A fine of $300 plus court costs
- Required attendance in a DUI school
- 12 months probation
- Suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license
As with other crimes in Georgia, the circumstances of the crime will determine whether prosecutors charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony. For example, if you face your fourth DUI charge in 10 years, prosecutors will charge you with a felony when all of the arrest dates are after July 1, 2008. Additionally, when someone is injured, defendants will face felony charges.
Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Charges
Under Georgia law, marijuana is still considered a controlled substance. Defendants found with one ounce or less of marijuana in their possession face a $1,000 fine or up to a year jail sentence. Defenses to misdemeanor charges vary based on the circumstances of the case. One of the most popular defenses is to contend that you were not in possession of marijuana.
Perhaps a friend placed it in your backpack or motor vehicle without your knowledge. Additionally, law enforcement officers cannot violate a suspect’s constitutional rights. When law enforcement officers engage in illegal searches and seizures, defendants can ask the court to throw out any evidence gained from unlawful searches and seizures.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers As Soon as Possible
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, you should speak to an experienced Atlanta criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Carter/Pilgrim, we have a proven track record of successful results in criminal defense. Contact our Atlanta law firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.