Criminal Offenses and Penalties in Georgia
Criminal offenses and penalties in Georgia are regulated by Georgia criminal statutes. The statute that specifies the elements of a criminal offense will also specify the penalties for that offense. Generally criminal offences in Georgia are classified into misdemeanors and felonies. The penalties for a misdemeanor offense is a jail term not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $1000 or a combination of both. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses that involve little or no physical harm to the victim or property damage. For a misdemeanor offense of an aggravated nature, the fine can exceed $1000 but will be less than $5000. The jail term for such offenses will not exceed 1 year. Felonies are more serious offenses and the penalties for a felony offense is a prison term exceeding 1 year or a fine in excess of $1000 or a combination of both.
Before the judge decides the sentence, the court may on its own ask for a pre-sentencing report. The defendant’s attorney can also request a pre-sentencing report. This pre-sentencing report will can be useful to the judge to determine the quantum of sentence. The pre-sentencing report will contain various information about the defendant including the defendant’s family situation, employment records, criminal background, etc.
In Georgia, the judge can impose an enhanced sentence on repeat offenders. The judge is also allowed to consider the criminal history of the person when determining the quantum of sentence to be imposed. So if a person has a criminal record, he or she will most likely get a longer sentence than a first time offender.
Georgia criminal law has mandatory sentencing requirements for certain crimes. A person convicted of kidnapping must be sentenced to at least 14 years. If the victim of kidnapping is less than 14 years of age, the mandatory minimum sentence is 25 years. Armed robbery in Georgia has a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years. The mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and rape is 25 years.
Georgia also has the three strikes law. If you have three felony convictions on your record, a fourth felony conviction will result in a life term and you will not be eligible for parole.
In case of a federal crime, the judge must consider the federal sentencing guidelines. Federal crimes include many federal regulatory and “white-collar” crimes, drug crimes and common law crimes coming within federal jurisdiction. The federal guidelines divide offenses into forty-three categories and are considerably more detailed in differentiating offenses than are the state systems. The objective of sentencing guidelines is to take much of the discretion in sentencing away from the trial judge and place it in the hands of a legislatively created sentencing commission. The sentencing commission formulates a set of guidelines that the trial judge must apply in arriving at the sentence. Usually the guidelines include a presumptive sentence, a sentence that is presumed to be appropriate given the severity of the crime for which the defendant has been convicted, and characteristics of the defendant, notably his criminal history. The trial judge may have limited discretion to depart from the presumptive sentence, but if he does so, he must issue an opinion explaining why, and the departure is subject to review on appeal. Sentencing guidelines reduce the degree of variability in sentencing.