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Crimes and Penalties in Georgia

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Crimes and penalties under Georgia law Resources

Crimes and penalties under Georgia law

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Contents


What crimes and penalties are included in this article?

This article lists general penalties for common crimes Georgia. It does not indicate all possible fines and forfeitures or list every possible crime. This article is not intended to be all inclusive. If you have specific questions, you should always consult with a criminal law lawyer.

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What is the difference between a felony and misdemeanor in Georgia?

There are two classifications of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors.

 

A felony is generally considered a more serious crime. Felonies are generally punishable by a minimum of one year in prison. The most serious felonies-such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery-are called capital felonies. The penalties for these crimes can be long prison terms, life imprisonment, or in the case of murder, even death. Under the sentencing guidelines, a person convicted of a capital felony will be released only after serving the full sentence.

 

Misdemeanors are generally less serious crimes than felonies. Most misdemeanors are punishable by a prison term of 1 to 12 months. 

 

For some crimes, the amounts of money or drugs involved, or the value of property damaged, may be considered in determining whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor if less than one ounce is involved. It is a felony if more than one ounce is involved. Shoplifting also becomes a felony if more than $300 worth of goods are taken.

 

The number of times a person has been convicted of a certain crime in the past may affect the possible sentence. 

 

The sentencing ranges for both felonies and misdemeanors are not mandatory jail sentences in all cases. The judge may elect to sentence the defendant to probation instead of incarceration. If the judge elects to choose probation as an alternative to incarceration, he or she usually will require certain conditions of probation, such as community service or fines. 

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What are my rights if I am charged with a crime in Georgia?

You have rights when you are charged with a crime in Georgia.

  • You have the right to enter a plea of not guilty.

  • You have the right to a trial by jury or to a bench trial (trial by judge). You can request a jury trial, even for misdemeanor crimes. 

  • You have the right to an attorney throughout all trial proceedings.

  • If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to ask the court to appoint one at no cost to you.

  • You have the right to be presumed innocent throughout the court proceedings unless you are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • You have the right to present evidence in your own defense.

  • You have the right to confront witnesses who testify against you at trial.

  • You have the right to remain silent at trial or testify in your own defense. Silence cannot be used against you.

  • If you are found guilty at trial, you have the right to appeal. 

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What are “Crimes Against the Person” in Georgia?

There are a number of what are called “crimes against the person.” These are crimes that usually involve hurting or threatening to hurt another person. Crimes against the person include:

 

  • Homicide. Homicide is when a person kills or causes the death of another human being. There are different types of homicide. These are:

    • Murder. Murder is a homicide that was planned. 

      • The punishment for murder in Georgia is death or life imprisonment.

    • Felony Murder. Felony murder is when a homicide happens while committing a felony like armed forbbery or rape. 

      • The punishment for felony murder in Georgia is death or life imprisonment.

    • Voluntary Manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is when one person kills another in the “heat of passion.” The killer must have been provoked to the point where any reasonable person would have lost self-control.

      • The punishment for voluntary manslaughter in Georgia is 1-20 years in prison. 

    • Involuntary Manslaughter. There are two categories of involuntary manslaughter: 

      • When one person accidentally kills another while committing a misdemeanor crime. The punishment for this is 1-10 years in prison.

      • When a person is killed because of another person’s criminal negligence. This is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

 

  • Kidnapping. Kidnapping is taking a person and holding them against their will. Basic kidnapping is punishable by 10-20 years in prison.

    • If the person is kidnapped for ransom or if the kidnapped person is injured, the punishment is life imprisonment.

 

  • Simple Assault. Simple assault is:

    • An attempt to violently injure another person, or

    • An act that makes another person fear immediate violent injury.

      • Simple assault is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

 

  • Aggravated Assault. Aggravated assault is assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to murder, rape or rob another person.

    • The general punishment for aggravated assault in Georgia is 1-20 years in prison.

      • If the victim is 65 years old or over, the punishment is 3-20 years in prison.

      • If the victim is a police officer, the punishment is 5-20 years in prison.

  • Simple Battery. Simple battery is: 

    • physically harming another person intentionally, or

    • Making physical contact in an insulting or provoking nature. 

      • Simple battery is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

 

  • Aggravated Battery. Aggravated battery is harming another person on purpose and:

    • Depriving them of part of their body,

    • Rendering part of their body useless, or

    • Seriously disfiguring their body. 

      • The general punishment for aggravated assault is 1-20 years in prison.

        • If the victim is 65 years old or over, the punishment is 3-20 years in prison.

        • If the victim is a police officer, the punishment is 5-20 years in prison.

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What are “Crimes Against the State” in Georgia?

A crime against the state means a crime against the government. The most common crime against the state is treason. Treason is:

  • Levying war against the country, or

  • Giving aid or comfort to the enemies of the country.

    • The punishment for treason is 15 years- life imprisonment.

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What are “Crimes Against or in Relation to Property” in Georgia?  

Crimes against or in relation to property are crimes that damage or take place on property. 

  • Arson. Arson is purposefully using fire or explosives to damage property. There are several degrees of arson that carry different potential penalties depending on the type of property. 

    • First degree arson. Harm to a place where people live or a building that is insured or has a security interest. 

      • In Georgia, the penalty for first degree arson is 1-20 years and/or up to a $50,000 fine.

    • Second degree arson. Harm to other types of property. This includes other buildings, vehicles, watercraft, or aircraft. 

      • In Georgia, the penalty for second degree arson is 1-10 years and/or up to a $25,000 fine.

    • Third degree arson. Using fire or explosion to damage personal property valued at $25 or more.

      • In Georgia, the penalty for third degree arson is 1-5 years and/or up to a $10,000 fine.

  • Trespassing. There are two types of trespassing. In Georgia, trespassing is a misdemeanor and may be punished by incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000. Trespassing is either:

    • Entering the premises, land or vehicles on purpose. The entering might be either without permission or after being told not to. Trespass might also be not leaving when told to leave another person’s property. 

    • Intentionally damaging the property of another (damages of $500 or less) or interfering with another’s holding or use of their property. This trespassing if the damage is done without permission from the owner. 

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What are “Crimes Involving Sexual Offenses” in Georgia?

There are a number of crimes that involve sexual offenses in Georgia.

  • Forcible rape. Forcible rape is when one person has sexual intercource by force against against the victim’s will. 

    • The punishment for forcible rape is 10-20 years, life imprisionment, life without parole, or death. 

 

  • Statutory rape. There are two types of statutory rape.

    • Stautory rape happens when a person has sex with another person under age 16 who is not a spouse. Statutory rape occurs even if there is consent. 

      • The punishment for this type of statutory rape is 1-20 years in prison.

    • Statutory rape also happens if the victim is 14 or 15 and the offender is no more than 3 years older than the victim. 

      • This type of statutory rape is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

 

  • Prostitution. Prostitution is offering, performing, or consenting to sex for moneny.

    • Prostitution is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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What are “Crimes Involving Theft” in Georgia?

In Georgia, the different types of crimes involving theft carry different levels of punishment. A crime involving theft is any crime where a person takes the property of another without permission, intending to keep it permanently. 

  • Armed robbery. Armed robbery is when a person takes the property of another using a weapon. 

    • The punishment for armed robbery is 10-20 years or life imprisonment.

  • Burglary. Burglary is entering into a building without permission intending to commit a felony or theft.

    • The punishment for burglary, if it is the first offense, is 1-20 years in prison.

      • For a second offense, the punishment is 2-20 years in prison.

      • For a third offense, the punishment is 5-20 years in prison.

  • Robbery. Robbery is taking another person’s property by force, intimidation, or sudden snatching. 

    • The punishment for robbery in Georgia is 1-20 years in prison.

      • If the victim is 65 or older, the punishment is 5-20 years.

  • Theft by conversion. Theft by conversion is when a person lawfully has another’s property or money but then unlawfully keeps the property and uses it for themself. An example of theft by conversion if you rent a car and then do not return it at the end of the rental period.

    • If the property is worth $500 or less, theft by conversion is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • If the property is worth more than $500, the punishment is 1-10 years in prison.

  • Theft of lost or mislaid property. Theft of lost or mislaid property happens when a person finds property that they know has been lost and takes it without trying to find the owner. 

    • If the property is worth $500 or less, theft of lost or mislaid property is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • If the property is worth more than $500, the punishment is 1-10 years in prison.

  • Theft by taking. Theft by taking happens when a person lawfully has another person’s property and then takes or keeps the property without permission. 

    • If the property is worth $500 or less, theft by conversion is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • If the property is worth more than $500, the punishment is 1-10 years in prison.

  • Theft by receiving stolen property. Theft by receiving stolen property happens when a person receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property that they know was stolen. This is a crime unless the person takes the property with the intent to return it to its owner.

    • If the property is worth $500 or less, theft by receiving stolen property is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • If the property is worth more than $500, the punishment is 1-10 years in prison.

  • Theft by shoplifting. Theft by shoplifting is when a person, alone or with others, intends to take merchandise without paying for the full value AND:

    • Hides or takes the item from the store,

    • Changes the price of the item,

    • Moves the merchandise from one container to another,

    • Swaps a price tag from one item to another, OR

    • Wrongfully pays less than the merchant’s stated price.

    • The punishment for shoplifting depends on the value of the property and any previous convictions: 

      • If the property is worth more than $300 or if the person has three or more prior shoplifting convictions, the punishment is 1-10 years in prison.

      • If property is less worth $300 or less,  theft by shoplifting is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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What are “Crimes Involving Forgery and Related Offenses” in Georgia?

In general, crimes involving forgery and related offenses happen when a person intentionally tricks another person and causes damage.

  • Forgery. Forgery is when a person intentionally makes, changes, or possesses a writing or work of art under a false name. Examples of a forgery are a work of art, check, or deed signed under a false name.

    • First degree: If the forgery is made and delivered. For example, handing over a forged check for payment. This is punishable by 1-10 years in prison.

    • Second degree: If the forgery is made but not delivered. This is punishable by 1-5 years imprisonment.

  • Credit card fraud.  Credit card fraud is when a person has, takes, or uses another person’s credit card and intends to commit fraud. 

    • The punishment for credit card fraud is 1-2 years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.

  • Issuing a bad check. Writing a bad check is a crime if the person knows there is not enough money in their account to cover the check. 

    • If property is less worth $500 or less,  issuing a bad check is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • If the property is worth more than $500, the punishment is 1-3 years in prison and/or a fine.

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What are “Crimes Involving Vehicles?” in Georgia?

There are three types of crimes involving vehicles in Georgia.

  • Vehicular Homicide. Vehicular homicide is when a person unintentionally causes the death of another while committing a traffic offense. 

    • First degree. The punishment for first degree vehicular homicide is 3-15 years in prison. First degree vehicular homicide happens when traffic offense is one of the following:

      • Hit-and-run,

      • Driving under the influence,

      • Reckless driving, or

      • Fleeing a police officer.

    • Second degree. If the unintended death happens during any other traffic offense, the vehicular homicide is second degree. Second degree vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

  • DUI. It is a crime in Georgia to drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or certain inhalants.

    • For a first or second offense, a DUI is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • For a third or subsequent offense, a DUI is a high and aggravated misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 12 months in county jail.

  • Reckless Driving. Reckless driving happens when a person drives with reckless disregard for the safety of people or property. 

    • Reckless driving is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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What are “Crimes Against Public Administration” in Georgia?

Crimes against public administration are acts that intentionally disrupt government work.

  • Perjury. Perjury is knowingly making a false statement under oath. 

    • Perjury is punishable by not more than $1000 and/or 1-10 years in prison.

  • False swearing. False swearing is making a false statement on a document when under oath. 

    • False swearing is punishable by not more than $1000 and/or 1-5 years in prison.

  • Bribery. Bribery is offering a public official something of value with the intent of influencing them. 

    • Bribery is punishable by not more than $1,000 and/or 1-20 years in prison.

  • False alarm. It is a crime to falsely report a fire or other public hazard.

    • Making a false report about a fire is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • Making a false report about public hazard, like a bomb, is punishable by 1-5 years in prison. 

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What are “Crimes Against Public Order and Safety” in Georgia?

  • Carrying a concealed weapon. It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It is also illegal to carry a handgun with a permit in certain public places.

    • The first offense is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • The second offense is punishable by 2-5 years imprisonment.

  • Rioting. Rioting is when two or more people commit unlawful acts of violence.

    • Rioting is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

  • Affray. Affray is fighting by two or more people in a public place and disturbing the peace. 

    • Affray is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

  • Terroristic Threat. A terroristic threat is threatening to commit a violent crime or damage property. There must be an intent to terrorize another or cause evacuation of a building. 

    • Terroristic threat is punishable by 1-5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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When is “discharging a firearm” a crime in Georgia?

  •  Discharging firearms. This is a crime when you fire a firearm on or w/in 50 yards of a public highway or street. Or if you fire on someone else’s property without permission or legal justification. 

    • Discharging a firearm is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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What are “drug offenses” in Georgia?

Georgia law classifies drugs (except marijuana in its unrefined state) into five classes:

  • Schedule I and II drugs. These include methadone, LSD, opium, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, quaaludes, THC and PCP. 

    • Possession. The first offense is punishable by 2-15 years in prison. The second offense is punishable by 5-30 years in prison. 

    • Possession with intent to sell or selling. The first offense is punishable by 5-30 years in prison. The second offense is punishable by 10-40 years or life in prison. 

  • Schedule III, IV, and V drugs. These include valium, uppers/downers, phenobarbital. 

    • Possession. Punishable by 1-5 years in prison.

    • Possession with intent to sell or selling. The first offense is punishable by 1-5 years in prison. The second offense is punishable by 1-10 years in prison. 

  • Marijuana. The charge for marijuana depends on the amount you have. 

    • Possession of 1 oz. or less. This is a misdemeanor and the punishment is incarceration in a local correctional facility for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

    • Possession of over 1 oz but no more than 50 lbs. Punishable by 1-10 years in prison.

    • Possession of over 50 lbs. Mandatory minimum punishment is 5-15 years. Mandatory fine is $100,000-$1 million. 

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What can I do? +

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What can I do if I am charged with a crime?

If you are charged with a crime, you should consult a lawyer immediately. You may have defenses to the charges or be able to reach a plea agreement. An attorney can help you figure out your options and guide you through the criminal justice process.

 

If you cannot afford an attorney, the court must appoint one for you.

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What are common legal defenses in Georgia?

A fundamental concept in the criminal justice system of this country is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the state. A defendant does not have to prove anything. You do not even have to take the stand in your own defense. The prosecutor cannot comment on your choice to testify or not. 

 

However, there are certain defenses that you may use at trial or even as early as during the plea bargaining stage. For each case, an attorney must decide which defenses might apply.

 

  • Denial. The most common defense is to deny the charges. Witnesses and alibis are used, when possible, to support the denial. 

  • Legal defenses. These are circumstances that, even if the crime happened, would mean you are legally not guilty in Georgia.

    • Alibi. You were somewhere else other than the scene of the crime when it took place.

    • Coercion. The crime was committed to avoid threats of immediate death or great bodily harm. Fear must be reasonable. This defense does not apply to murder; and it applies only when you are threatened, not others.

    • Delusional compulsion. The crime was committed under delusional compulsion. A delusion is a belief that is false, although the person holding it believes it is true. The compulsion must be due to mental disease, injury, or a birth defect. 

    • Entrapment. The crime would not have been committed if you had not been tricked into it by a law enforcement officer.

    • Insanity. Mental incapacitation (that is, not being capable of knowing right from wrong) at time of the crime must be proved.

    • Involuntary intoxication. You were intoxicated without your knowledge or permission when the crime happened.

    • Mistake of fact. The crime was committed because of a mistaken view of the situation. For example, you shot a household member because you thought they were an intruder.

    • Self-defense. This can be defense of yourself, others, and/or home. You must show justification for doing what would normally be a crime.

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Last Review and Update: Dec 01, 2020