As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I have been closely watching the developments of different jurisdictions in the state of Georgia regarding the prosecution of crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, two counties have released information regarding how they will each be handling criminal prosecutions for the time being.
First, let's start with Gwinnett County. According to their Solicitor General's Office, they will be prosecuting anyone who violates the stay-at-home order issued by Chairman Charlotte Nash. This includes all sixteen municipalities within Gwinnett. They have said that a violation of the order will constitute a misdemeanor offense.
Misdemeanors in Georgia
Misdemeanors in Georgia are defined as criminal acts that are not considered felony offenses. Under Georgia statute O.C.G.A. §17-10-3, misdemeanors are punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by jail time not to exceed 12 months or both. If convicted of a misdemeanor and required to serve time, it will be served in a county or city jail. Prison terms are reserved for people who will be spending more than one year in confinement.
Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they can still have an impact on your life. Some drug offenses are misdemeanors, and that could result in loss of federal financial aid for education or jobs.
Now in comparison, let's look at the news release from Fulton County. COVID-19 and criminal prosecutions are being handled much differently. The District Attorney's Office in Fulton has requested that officers within the county issue citations in lieu of arrests for non-violent offenders or non-felony offenses. Felony offenses are different from misdemeanors.
Felonies in Georgia
Felonies in Georgia are all crimes that are punished by more than one year in prison. There are many different types of felonies in Georgia, but one of the major categories is violent and non-violent felonies. Non-violent felonies include offenses such as theft by taking or theft by deception. It also includes the sale of drugs or manufacturing of large quantities of drugs. Even though these crimes carry hefty fines and significant prison time, they are considered non-violent felonies.
The Georgia Criminal Process is extremely overwhelming - especially when there is a pandemic. The public health crisis that we are experiencing is unprecedented. This means that the reactions from different government units will vary. If you or a loved one has been arrested, call our offices today.