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Georgia Criminal Law: An Overview

Georgia ranks 20th in the U.S. for violent crimes and has the ninth highest poverty rate of all states. It attained the national spotlight in the 1970s when, as the result of the Furman v. Georgia burglary and homicide case, state capital punishment laws were redefined and reinstated across the U.S. to address discrimination issues.

Georgia Felonies and Misdemeanors

Georgia, like each state in America, is free to draft its own new criminal laws. That means that if an act is deemed a crime in Atlanta, Georgia, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a crime in Boston, Massachusetts or any other state. But state laws do have to be constitutional. Many state laws around the country have been deemed unconstitutional by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Georgia, crimes are classified under felonies and misdemeanors depending on their severity and type. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes compared to felonies. They carry a maximum fine of $5,000 and an imprisonment sentence of up to one year.

Felonies are the worst crimes in Georgia. Felonies are punishable by more than one year of imprisonment at minimum and up to life imprisonment or the maximum penalty of death by lethal injection.

Capital Punishment in Georgia

Death by lethal injection is legal in Georgia for capital felonies including aggravated murder, treason, and aircraft hijacking.

Georgia's famous 1972 case, Furman v. Georgia, changed the national landscape of capital punishment in the U.S. The case effectively caused 37 states to reinstate their capital punishment laws to address issues concerning cruel and unusual punishment related to discrimination.

Georgia DUI Laws

Just like in every other state, Georgia's DUI laws extend beyond alcoholic intoxication while driving to drug and prescription medication intoxication. If a substance impacts your ability to drive safely, you could receive a DUI.

In Georgia, you can receive a DUI for any level of drug or medication intoxication or if you register at a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher. DUI penalties start from a mandatory one-year license suspension, 40 hours of community service, and a minimum $300 fine among other administrative penalties.

Georgia Criminal Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the legal period of time following an illegal act in which a victim may prosecute the person who committed the act. Every state sets its own statute of limitations. Here are a few of Georgia's statutes of limitations for different criminal acts:

  • Murder — no limitation
  • Other capital felonies or felonies punishable by life imprisonment — seven years
  • Forcible rape — 15 years
  • Other felonies — four years
  • Misdemeanors — two years

Contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in Georgia has the right to mount a vigorous defense. An attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

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