The classification of whether a charge is a misdemeanor or felony charge decides how a case will be prosecuted in Atlanta court. Due to the varying degrees of severity and the penalties involved, an individual accused of such a crime should seek legal representation when both determining their charge, and building a defense against it. An experienced lawyer familiar with criminal classifications in the Atlanta area and help prepare an individual for what to expect and ensure their charges are mitigated as much as possible.

Criminal Classifications

In Atlanta, a misdemeanor is any criminal offense that is subject to up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. In Georgia, all traffic offenses are classified as misdemeanors, this includes running a stop sign, shoplifting less than $500, or smoking marijuana. Georgia does not differentiate between a traffic offense and a misdemeanor. A felony offense, however, is any crime that has a punishment subject to more than 12 months in jail.

Georgia specifically differentiates misdemeanors and felonies based upon the severity of the penalty. It has nothing to do with the nature of the offense. Felony offenses are often much more serious than misdemeanor offenses, and therefore carry more severe penalties. Murder, or armed robbery, for example, would be classified as a felony offense, whereas shoplifting gum from a convenience store would be classified as a misdemeanor.

Non-Violent Felonies

Non-violent felonies can include things such as theft by taking or theft by deception. This can include cases where an employee may steal money from their employer’s bank account, for example. Non-violent felonies, such as drug cases, that involve large quantities or sale of drugs could involve significant jail time, even though they are considered non-violent. Georgia can be very punitive and unlike many states, Georgia frequently looks to incarcerate people first and ask questions later.

Role of County Ordinances

In Georgia, every municipality and county have different ordinance violations.  The penalty for these violations can be up to a $1,000 fine and six months or less in jail. A city ordinance does not entitle an individual to a jury trial and their case will stay with the court in which the ordinance is issued. For example, if an individual receives an ordinance violation for disorderly conduct in John’s Creek, their case is heard in John’s Creek. An individual is not able to move their case out of John’s Creek to a state court in Fulton County. With that said, sometimes, a municipality will try and give people a harsher penalty on an ordinance violation.

It is important to note that an ordinance violation in Georgia is not considered a crime, and the individual is not entitled to a jury trial as it is considered less than a misdemeanor offense.

Case Proceedings

Atlanta prosecutors treat felonies very differently from misdemeanors because the felonies are handled by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office versus the City of Atlanta solicitor’s office, or the Fulton County Solicitor’s office for misdemeanors.  The City of Atlanta Solicitor handles all crimes in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court, where the Fulton County solicitor handles all misdemeanor offenses in the Fulton County state court. There are many jurisdictions within the state of Georgia that do not have a state court.

As a result, the prosecutor’s office that handles misdemeanors is the District Attorney’s Office. Fulton County Superior Court will treat felonies much more seriously than a Fulton county State Court because they may involve significant prison time, where a misdemeanor does not. A misdemeanor will typically involve probation, community service, and fines. Depending on whether or not an individual’s crime is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, an attorney can guide them through the legal process effectively, providing seasoned legal support.

Long-Term Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

A misdemeanor conviction in Atlanta can affect someone’s ability to get certain types of jobs and may be perceived negatively when an employer runs their background search. A misdemeanor conviction must be disclosed on many sorts of applications such as those for graduate school or college.

A misdemeanor conviction can affect security clearances and background checks in certain circumstances. Generally, those would be for a crime of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude refers to conduct that is against the community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals. These are typically the types of crimes that get you in trouble for background searches or security clearances. The long-term consequences of these convictions may prohibit you from getting a job or promotion. They sometimes result in the inability to travel outside the United States and return to the United States when they are not a lawful citizen.

Contacting an Attorney

An attorney can contact a prosecutor before charges are filed and they can determine what sort of evidence is admissible and what is inadmissible. They will have significant resources available to them so that they can uncover favorable evidence or favorable witnesses for your case. An experienced Atlanta criminal defense lawyer can get you involved in counseling treatment evaluations to see if there is anything mitigating that can be presented on your behalf and use that in your case effectively.