Georgia classifies a misdemeanor as any criminal act not considered a felony. Some common misdemeanors in Georgia include selling alcohol to minors, simple assault, shoplifting items worth less than $300 and sexual offenses, such as rape and child pornography. When considering punishment, the state further splits these offenses into general misdemeanors and “Misdemeanors of a High and Aggravated Nature.” These latter offenses indicate repeated or severe misdemeanor violations and generally signify an increase in punishment.
Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor in Georgia cannot receive a sentence greater than one year imprisonment. Generally speaking, Georgia's penal code calls for punishment of up to one year, and judges possess a wide degree of latitude in assigning these sentences. If sentenced, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor may serve his imprisonment in a county or local jail or another type of correctional institution. If the sentence amounts to less than six months, the judge can also assign a weekend-only sentencing plan that permits the convicted to work during the week and serve her sentence on the weekends. Once imprisoned, an inmate can earn up to a four-day per month reduction of her sentence for good behavior.
Georgia sets a minimum fine for certain crimes. Individuals convicted of their first DUI offense incur a minimum fine of $300, while a second offense doubles this penalty to a $600 minimum. Judges can impose fines up to $5,000 for individuals convicted of a misdemeanor of a high or aggravated nature.
Loss of Privileges
A misdemeanor conviction can also result in a loss of a wide range of privileges, depending on the type of offense committed. For instance, a misdemeanor conviction for battery against a spouse can result in the loss of gun possession privileges or overnight visitation with children. Individuals convicted of misdemeanor drug possession can lose college scholarships. Those convicted of a first DUI automatically lose their driver’s license for one year, although they can apply for an exemption to travel to and from employment. A second DUI offense carries a three-year suspended license. Judges can also order a repeat DUI offender to take a mandatory alcohol or drug treatment program.
Judges can also order community service in lieu of or in addition to imprisonment or fines. Some offenses automatically carry a community service penalty; for example, a first DUI conviction mandates 40 hours of service.
Under Georgia law, a judge can convert any part of an offender's sentence to probation. Under probation, an individual must uphold certain conditions, such as not receiving another traffic ticket or DUI, or violating the law. The judge can also mandate regular meetings with a probation officer or court-appointed agent.