Being convicted of a criminal offense can jeopardize your relationships, personal freedom, and financial well-being. The possibility of a criminal conviction can also put your life on hold. When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to have a criminal attorney that understands your goals, can give you a realistic assessment of your case, and will advocate for the best possible outcome in your case, with your needs in mind.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the greater Atlanta area, contact an experienced Fulton County criminal lawyer to limit the damage to you following an arrest.
Fulton County Municipal Ordinances
Every municipality has municipal ordinances, and violations of these ordinances are not considered to be as significant as criminal offenses. Violating a municipal ordinance leads to a bench trial in municipal court rather than a jury trial. These cases can result in having to pay up to $1,000 in fines and sixty days in jail. Violation of municipal ordinances can involve offenses such as parking on grass, improperly disposing of garbage, or posting prohibited signage.
State court and superior court do not have jurisdiction over these municipal ordinances. Quite often, in places like the municipal court of Sandy Springs, for example, the authorities use an ordinance violation to keep residents within the jurisdiction of the courts where they feel they have better control of the case. There might be jail time for violating some of these municipal ordinances, and individual municipalities might increase the fines as the state would. While the ordinance violation may mimic a state law offense, there might be some difference, and although these cases do not seem very serious, municipal prosecutors might take them more seriously than the person charged would expect.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
In Georgia, criminal offenses are classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Criminal offenses are not further categorized as classes of offenses, but instead each criminal offense is assigned its own penalty based on the seriousness of the crime.
A misdemeanor offense is punishable with up to one year in jail and a fine that does not exceed $1,000. If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor offense, it creates a criminal record, which is available for public viewing; however, when the sentence is less than six months, the judge has discretion to permit the sentence to be served on weekends and during non-working hours to allow the defendant to preserve employment.
When the misdemeanor offense is an aggravated offense, the penalty can include up to one year of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine. Unlike other misdemeanor offenses, if someone is convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor offense, they are required to serve the majority of their incarceration sentence because the number of days that a sentence can be reduced for good behavior is limited.
A felony offense is any criminal offense that is punishable with more than 12 months imprisonment and fines that exceed $1,000. Generally, after a conviction for a felony offense in Georgia, judges will delay sentencing to receive sentencing recommendations making it important a Fulton County criminal attorney is contacted right away.
Georgia law does require mandatory minimum sentencing for serious violent felony offenses. A mandatory minimum sentence removes a judge’s ability to consider mitigating factors, which are pieces of information that can be presented on a defendant’s behalf to justify reduced sentencing. It requires that the defendant be sentenced with a pre-established penalty for certain crimes, without consideration of other factors.
Facing Criminal Charges
When someone faces a criminal charge in Fulton County, an arrest does not mean a conviction. Just because a person has been charged with the crime does not mean they will be convicted.
A misdemeanor conviction can affect security clearances and background checks. A conviction can prohibit a person from holding various jobs and professions even if they shoplifted something as little as a pack of chewing gum.
In addition, the stigma of having a criminal conviction can cause problems. When people apply to colleges and various graduate schools, they review a person’s total record. A misdemeanor conviction on that record can cause a problem.
Contacting a Fulton County Criminal Lawyer
In many cases, being charged with a criminal offense can have a negative impact on your daily life. You may have been arrested, which could have impacted your ability to report to work. Your intake photograph, or mug shot, may have been published in the newspaper or shown on television.
Also, the charge alone requires that you be available for hearings and the schedule for those hearing is not determined by what best fits into your work or life schedule.
Further, the penalties associated with a conviction, even if the offense is a misdemeanor, can have a negative impact on your reputation in the community and impact your employment since Georgia is an “at-will” state. When the consequences are so severe, it is imperative that you have a skilled and trustworthy Fulton County criminal lawyer to represent you.