Misdemeanor Charges in Atlanta
A misdemeanor case in Georgia is any charge in which the maximum possible penalty is one year and a fine of $1,000. These can include a wide number of criminal offenses ranging from DUI to shoplifting, and while less severe than felony charges, misdemeanor convictions in Georgia can still follow a person for the rest of their life. As a result, it is important anyone facing a criminal offense call an Atlanta criminal lawyer as soon as possible to discuss their case and begin building a defense. For more specific information regarding your case, call and schedule a consultation today.
Differences Between a Misdemeanor and Felony
One of the key differences between misdemeanor cases and felony cases is that misdemeanor cases tend to be over quicker. In misdemeanor cases, the person has a right to have a jury trial in front of a six-person jury. A felony jury, in contrast, is a twelve-person jury. Most of the courts in the metropolitan Atlanta area now have full time prosecutors meaning every time you show up there’s a prosecutor there in order for you to negotiate your case or to set it down for trial.
An example, DeKalb Recorder’s Court for many years did not have a prosecutor present, except on trial dates. The solicitor general’s office for DeKalb is now staffing that court so that there’s a prosecutor there every time.
Where Misdemeanor Cases Are Heard
Misdemeanor cases in the Metro Atlanta area are heard at the municipal level by the city courts, which are called the municipal courts. For example, the Municipal Court of Atlanta, the Municipal Court of Decatur, and the Municipal Court of Lawrenceville. They are also heard at the county level in the recorder’s courts. For jury trials, they’re heard in the state courts such as the State Court of Fulton County, the State Court of Cobb County, or the State Court of Gwinnett County.
Reasons to Fight a Misdemeanor Charge
For most misdemeanor offenses in Georgia, a person does not face jail time on a first offense. Certain charges such as DUI require a minimum of 24 hours in jail, but usually the courts say that the jail time that was spent when first arrested is adequate.
Although there is not much jail time given on most first offenses, quite often there is probation, especially with charge such as less than ounce of marijuana, domestic violence battery, or DUI.
However, if the person on probation gets into new trouble, even very minor trouble, they go back in front of the judge who has them on probation and the judge can convert that to jail time. The cumulative effect of having multiple misdemeanors is greater really in the sum than having them in separate ways.
For example, a person with the DUI is probably going to get twelve months probation, $1,000 fines, community service, etc. If several years later they get a marijuana charge, it’s probably going to be about the same again, but if they get that marijuana charge while they’re still on probation, it’s much, much worse.
Marijuana has now become somewhat decriminalized for a first conviction for possessions of a small amount. The first time a person is convicted for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, it no longer goes on their criminal history. It is not found in background checks by employers. However, that does not mean a person shouldn’t speak with an attorney about their options and about representing them in defending a misdemeanor level marijuana charge. Convictions can still have consequences and an attorney may be able to negotiate the result of a person’s case without a conviction and without the need for the person to check the box “Yes, I have been convicted of a crime” and have to explain it.
Other Consequences of Misdemeanor Convictions
Security clearances and background checks can be affected by a misdemeanor such as a DUI or simple battery or simple assault. Some of the more serious misdemeanors that are some forms of simple battery can affect a person’s ability to possess a firearm under federal laws. People convicted of batteries in domestic violence situations often involving wife or girlfriend are prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. It is imperative to hire a lawyer who knows how to negotiate and reduce charges as an option before going to trial on these cases to save the person’s rights and their ability to own a firearm in Atlanta.