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Felonies vs. misdemeanors

When it comes to facing criminal charges in Georgia, these charges are typically classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor typically results in less serious consequences, while felonies are usually associated with more severe crimes. An easy trick for discerning a misdemeanor charge from a felony is to take note of the amount of jail time that an individual might face.

Jail time for misdemeanors is defined in terms of months, while felony jail time is set out in years. Although there are exceptions, misdemeanors are generally only punishable by a jail sentence of one to 12 months. Additionally, a judge also retains the discretion to sentence someone accused of a misdemeanor to probation instead.

On the other hand, a felony can be punishable by a year or more. Criminal charges that would otherwise be considered a misdemeanor, such as possession of marijuana, can become felonies based on the amount of drug that the individual is accused of having. Examples of a felony include:

  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Possession of more than 1 oz. of marijuana
  • Third DUI offense
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Writing a Bad Check over $500

While felonies generally result in more severe consequences than a misdemeanor, it is imperative that those accused of committing a crime in Georgia should still have their rights and presumed innocence maintained. The defendant does not bare the burden of proof but, rather, the prosecution does. Before any conviction can possibly be made, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that every aspect of the charge -- either felony or misdemeanor -- is valid and true.

Source: georgialegalaid.org, "Basics of Criminal Law", , Sept. 14, 2014

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