Overview of GA Criminal Law
Criminal law is enforced at the state level. While types of behaviors and conduct that are criminalized don’t vary much between different states, how these laws are enforced often does. For example, in all U.S. states, murder or kidnapping are considered serious crimes. However, penalties for these crimes can differ from state to state.
Although certain actions can be considered crimes without thinking twice, other actions that don’t seem so serious can also be considered crimes. Failure to stop at a stop sign or lying to the police about your name are criminal offenses. Individuals arrested and convicted of these crimes probably won’t spend decades in state prison, but they can be prosecuted and may spend certain time in a county jail.
If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to hire an attorney who can protect your rights. You also have the right to be presumed innocent until convicted. Farnsworth & Murphy LLC can assess your case, help you learn your options, and defend you passionately.
Important Terms in the Criminal Justice Process
Every state has a code describing and defining all acts that are considered crimes. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), Title 16, contains these definitions. Georgia law defines crime as a violation of a state law that includes action or failure to act with disregard for the safety of others who might be injured.
If you are facing charges under Georgia criminal laws, learning the meaning of some common legal terms is essential. That way, you can better understand your case and the criminal justice process.
Suppose you are arrested for a criminal offense. You will have to appear before the court, where you will hear the state of Georgia’s formal charges against you. That is called an arraignment. You will be asked to enter the plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” There are other types of pleas, such as nolo contendere or “Alford plea.”
The prosecution must prove you committed the crime in question beyond reasonable doubt. In criminal cases, that means all jurors must agree you committed the crime.
In some cases, a plea can be negotiated. That means your Georgia criminal defense attorney will talk to the prosecutor and agree on a certain amount of jail or prison time, fines, and community service in exchange for your plea.
It’s important to know that if you plead guilty to a crime, you give up your right to have a trial, negotiate a plea agreement, as well as to cross-examine any witness. That’s why it’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Types of Crimes in Georgia
The most common classification of Georgia crimes includes misdemeanors and felonies.
Misdemeanors are typically less serious crimes. Some examples include petty theft, speeding, DUI, trespassing, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and public intoxication. Penalties can include up to 12 months of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
Some misdemeanors can be “upgraded” to a high and aggravated nature misdemeanor under certain circumstances. That can happen if a certain crime occurs several times in a specific period, such as a third DUI charge.
However, some offenses can be considered misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature, even as a first offense. These offenses can include attempting to elude a police officer and aggressive driving. These offenses can be punishable with a fine of up to $5,000. But, the maximum jail time is still one year.
Felonies are generally considered more severe crimes than misdemeanors. Rape, murder, kidnapping, robbery, or possession of serious drugs are crimes that can be considered felonies. These crimes are generally punishable by a minimum of one year in prison. However, certain felonies like murder and armed robbery are called capital felonies. If convicted, penalties can include long prison terms or even the death penalty.
Although all crimes have a certain sentencing range, a judge can reduce the sentences. The judge also has the right to sentence the defendant to probation instead of jail or prison time.
Moreover, Georgia also has “wobbler crimes.” These crimes may be prosecuted either as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the crimes’ circumstances. For example, drug offenses can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the amount and type of drugs involved.
Being arrested and charged with a crime can be humiliating and, at the same time, a horrifying experience. Even though you want to know more about the crime you are charged with, don’t forget that criminal law is broad and complex. Moreover, depending on the crime, consequences can be severe.
Why Might You Need a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney
The U.S. Constitution, as well as federal and state laws, protects basic people’s rights through the criminal process. So, if you are accused of a crime, you have certain rights.
For example, you have the right to hire an attorney. If you cannot afford that, you can ask the court to appoint you an attorney at no cost. You also have a right to a trial by judge (bench trial) or a jury trial. Moreover, you have to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
You can testify at your trial, present evidence proving your defense, confront witnesses who testify against you, and even remain silent. You may not be aware of all your constitutional rights as a defendant, but criminal defense lawyers are. They can help you craft a vigorous defense. In addition, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you negotiate a plea deal and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
How Long Does the Prosecution Have to File Criminal Charges in Georgia?
The government has a certain time limit to bring criminal charges. That time period is called a statute of limitations. If the charges are filed after the statute of limitations has passed, the case will be dismissed.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime. For instance, a violent crime typically has a longer statute of limitations than a non-violent crime. You may want to consult with a violent crime lawyer to learn the specific statute of limitations.
However, some crimes, such as child rape or murder, have no statute of limitations, meaning charges can be brought until the defendant is alive.
More Questions on Georgia Criminal Law? Contact Farnsworth & Murphy LLC
Georgia criminal laws provide descriptions and penalties for different crimes. However, legal terms used in these laws are often complicated and hard to understand. For instance, computer crimes are extremely technical, and you may need the assistance of a qualified lawyer to understand your charges.
Even if charges are for crimes that are easier to understand, many circumstances can affect the outcome of your case.
Aggressive prosecutors may try to scare you into pleading guilty. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can identify the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case that can cast doubt.
If you are facing criminal charges in the Atlanta area, a criminal defense attorney at Farnsworth & Murphy LLC can help you understand the applicable law in your case and prepare for your defense. Contact us today!