Don’t minimize a misdemeanor
When you face a criminal charge in Georgia, you may be relieved to hear that it’s a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony. However, you shouldn’t relax too much when you find out that your charge is a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction can affect you for the rest of your life.
What’s a misdemeanor in Georgia?
In Georgia, a misdemeanor can bring up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. You can also receive a term of probation instead of jail. Absent an unusual circumstance, it stays on your criminal record forever.
Why take a misdemeanor seriously?
Certainly the thought of a year’s incarceration should be enough to get anyone’s attention. Any jail time can wreak havoc on your personal life. It can cause you to lose your job, fail to make payments on time and even lose custody of your children. If you have a professional license, you may lose it even for misdemeanor charges.
In some cases, the court allows an offender to serve their time in jail when they’re not at work. A court may also release an offender to go to work. However, this special consideration is available for only relatively short sentences and only if you ask. The judge has the option to grant special dispensation for work, so it’s important to take the matter seriously to explain to the judge why you deserve this treatment.
Even though a crime may be classified as a misdemeanor, it can still bring serious driver’s license sanctions. As part of a sentence for any traffic-related misdemeanor, the judge can refer the driver to the Department of Driver Services for reexamination. The Department can reconsider whether the person is fit to have an operator’s license in the State of Georgia. A judge can also order a driver to attend a driver improvement course.
Some misdemeanor charges come with an automatic license suspension. For example, a drunk driving conviction comes with a license suspension that may be as short as 120 days or as long as five years. In the case of multiple drunk driving offenses within ten years, you have to get a clinical evaluation from a state agency and document that you’ve received treatment for any alcohol or substance abuse problem that you might have.
A license sanction that comes as a result of a misdemeanor conviction can hurt your employment. If your employer requires you to drive during the course of your employment, you may lose your job, or you may not be able to get another job because of your conviction.
Many people are surprised to learn that a misdemeanor conviction can stop you from traveling internationally. What the United States sees as a routine offense, a foreign country might use as grounds to deny entry into the country. Even a simple drunk driving conviction is enough to prevent an American from gaining entry into Canada. This is true even if you have no intention of driving in the country.
Defending a misdemeanor prevents future charging enhancements
Many felonies would be misdemeanors if the person didn’t have a prior offense. For example, if you have three prior impaired driving offenses, your drunk driving charge is a felony instead of a misdemeanor. It’s important to defend each and every misdemeanor charge in order to prevent a future charge from being a felony when it wouldn’t have been without the prior conviction.
Fight each misdemeanor aggressively
It’s important to take every criminal charge seriously. In addition to immediate penalties, there might be penalties in the future that you can’t imagine now. Taking your misdemeanor charge seriously can lower penalties and give you more options in the future.