Anytime you encounter law enforcement, you would benefit from having a clear understanding of your rights. However, criminal law is often complex, and the severity of any criminal charges can depend a great deal on the unique factors of the situation. If police recently arrested you for a crime such as a repeat offense of DUI or a violent incident that resulted in someone else’s injury, you may be waiting to hear if the district attorney will file the charge as a misdemeanor or felony.

Understanding the difference between the two levels of charges and the related penalties is critical for building a strong defense strategy.

Severe penalties for felony charges

Of course, felonies are more serious offenses than misdemeanors. Arson, murder, rape and kidnapping are examples of crimes that often result in felony charges. The main difference between felonies and misdemeanors is the potential sentence you may receive if convicted. For example, in Georgia, a felony typically results in one of the following:

  • Prison for longer than 12 months
  • Life in a high security prison
  • The death penalty

Georgia is one of the few states that still exercises capital punishment for heinous crimes, which is another reason for seeking quality legal representation if you are facing charges.

Misdemeanors do not have minor consequences

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, such as first or second-offense DUIs, shoplifting or simple assault. In fact, any crime that is not a felony is a misdemeanor in this state. Traffic offenses are also misdemeanors in Georgia. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face up to a year in jail and appropriate fines.

However, if authorities file misdemeanor charges against you, it does not mean you should not put the same effort into defending yourself. Misdemeanor charges can have significant lifelong ramifications. In addition to the possibility of months or years in jail, fines, and other penalties, a criminal charge on your record, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, can complicate many areas of your life, including your career, your finances and your personal life.

What happens next?

No matter how severe the charges against you, you can expect drastic changes in your life for the foreseeable future. You may find yourself wondering and worrying about what affect these charges will have on your life and how best to fight them. For answers to your questions and guidance in the most effective next steps to take, you would do well to reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney.