Understanding Felonies in Georgia

A in Georgia is an offense that is punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or for more than 12 months. 

A felony conviction could ruin your life, so it is important that you fight the charges and defend yourself. The information provided here can help you understand how the law on felony offenses works and guide you as you prepare your defense.

Read on to learn more about felony crimes in Georgia and how a Georgia felony attorney at Adam Levin Law, LLC might be able to help you.

What Are Felony Charges in Georgia?

Felony charges in Georgia represent serious criminal offenses that carry severe penalties. Unlike misdemeanors, felonies are defined by the severity of the potential punishment rather than the nature of the crime itself. 

Georgia law classifies felonies into a range of categories, including violent, non-violent, drug, and property crimes. These categories encompass a wide variety of actions, including murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, and grand theft, to name a few. Each category carries distinct sentencing guidelines that determine the range of punishment.

Punishment for felony convictions in Georgia varies widely based on the nature of the offense. For most felonies, the sentence can range from one year to life in prison or even the death penalty in cases of the most serious crimes such as murder. For example, drug trafficking can carry a sentence of 5 to 30 years for a first offense and up to life in prison for subsequent offenses. 

Similarly, property crimes such as burglary can carry a sentence of 1 to 20 years. Additionally, Georgia employs a draconian punishment scheme – similar to a  “three strikes law”  –  that can pull any discretion away from a judge and require you to be sentenced to the maximum sentence for a given crime with no chance of parole.

There are as many defenses as there are crimes.  That is, every case has its own unique, best approach.  Typical defenses range from affirmative defenses like alibi to highlighting the State’s lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Other defenses might be best made to a judge: asserting that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during the investigation or arrest, such as through illegal search and seizure. 

Alternatively, a defendant may argue that they committed the act but were not responsible due to insanity or self-defense. The choice of defense strategy typically depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Different Categories of Felonies

Let’s consider some examples of crimes that are classified as felonies in Georgia. Homicide crimes such as murder and manslaughter fall into this category, with murder potentially carrying the death penalty or life in prison. Sex crimes like rape and aggravated sodomy are also felonies, with sentences ranging from 25 years to life. Drug-related crimes can vary from possession to trafficking, with sentences contingent on the type and quantity of the drug. Felonious property crimes include burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson, each carrying potential sentences of multiple years in prison.

Felony charges in Georgia cover a broad array of crimes, each carrying severe punishments and strict sentencing guidelines. The nature of the offense, its classification, and the defendant’s previous criminal record significantly influence the range of potential punishments. Various defenses can be employed depending on the circumstances of the case, including maintaining innocence, asserting constitutional rights violations, or invoking defenses such as insanity or self-defense. While misdemeanors are serious in their own right, felonies represent the most serious crimes and carry the most severe consequences under Georgia law.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Felonies Under Georgia Law?

The statute of limitations refers to the legal restriction on the time within which a criminal prosecution may commence. The prescribed period varies with each crime, and any case that begins when the stipulated time has elapsed is subject to dismissal. The statute of limitations can therefore be used as a defense in a criminal charge once you can show that the case started after the statutory time limit had passed.

Generally, the statute of limitations for felonies, including drug crimes, is four years. If the crime is punishable by death or life imprisonment, the time limit increases to seven years and 15 years if it involves forcible rape. However, murder charges in Georgia may validly commence at any time without restrictions.

Note that the Georgia Code provides for several exceptions to the strict application of the statute of limitations. So, if you intend to rely on any limitation law, you’ll need to confirm that none of the legal exceptions apply to your case.

Can Felony Convictions Be Expunged in Georgia?

Expungement refers to the process of restricting public access to a person’s criminal records. When your criminal record is expunged, your criminal history does not show up on background checks conducted by third parties such as employers or prospective colleges.

If you’re convicted of a felony in Georgia, you’re ineligible for expungement unless you’re able to obtain an absolute pardon for the offense. Otherwise, you will have to live with the aftermath of your conviction for the rest of your life, even after you might have completed your sentence.

Some of the impacts that flow from a felony conviction include the following:

A felony conviction carries with it numerous collateral consequences beyond the immediate penalties of prison, fines, or probation. These are additional legal, social, and economic effects that can last long after the prison sentence has been served. Here are ten such collateral consequences:

  1. Loss of Voting Rights: Many states, including Georgia, impose restrictions on the voting rights of individuals convicted of a felony, potentially leading to temporary or even permanent disenfranchisement.
  2. Employment Restrictions: Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a felony conviction on their record. Certain industries, such as law enforcement, education, and healthcare, may disqualify individuals with felony convictions entirely.
  3. Ineligibility for Public Housing: A felony conviction can lead to denial or eviction from public housing, as it often disqualifies individuals from federal housing assistance.
  4. Loss of Professional Licenses: Some professions require a state license to practice, and a felony conviction may result in the revocation of such licenses or prevent the acquisition of one in the future.
  5. Denial of Federal Student Aid: Individuals with certain drug-related felony convictions may be temporarily or permanently barred from receiving federal financial aid for education.
  6. Custody and Adoption Restrictions: A felony conviction can affect custody disputes in family law matters. Additionally, it may prevent an individual from fostering or adopting a child.
  7. Restrictions on Gun Ownership: Federal law generally prohibits those with felony convictions from owning or possessing firearms or ammunition.
  8. Loss of Passport Privileges: In some cases, individuals convicted of a felony may have their passport revoked or may be ineligible to receive a passport, restricting international travel.
  9. Ineligibility for Public Benefits: Depending on the type of felony, individuals may be disqualified from certain public assistance programs, including food stamps and cash benefits.
  10. Damage to Reputation and Social Stigma: A felony conviction can lead to lasting damage to an individual’s reputation, leading to difficulties in personal relationships, community interactions, and overall social opportunities.

The extent of these consequences can vary greatly depending on a range of factors, including the nature of the crime, the presence of prior convictions, and the laws of the jurisdiction where the conviction took place. These collateral consequences often make the reintegration process into society challenging for individuals with a felony record.

As such, it is important that you try to avoid a felony conviction as much as possible, even if it requires that you hire a criminal defense lawyer.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you’re facing felony charges in Georgia, you do not have to go through the struggle on your own. Instead, consider hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you and fight the charges on your behalf.

Criminal defense attorneys understand how criminal laws work, and they can make the laws work for you as well, given the right circumstances.

Your attorney can evaluate your case and work towards preparing an appropriate defense that could get the charges against you dismissed or reduced.

At such a trying time, it is important to have someone in your corner when it seems everyone else is against you. Let your criminal defense attorney bear some of your burdens as you fight your way out of the criminal justice system.

If you or your loved one are facing felony charges in Georgia and you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us at Adam Levin Law, LLC. Our tested, battle-ready attorneys can answer your questions and help you as you fight to get your freedom back. Book a free consultation with us as soon as possible to get started.