Criminal Defense in Atlanta

EHG Law Firm's criminal defense attorneys specialize in fighting for your rights and protecting your future.

Atlanta DUI Attorney

Georgia Criminal Defense Information

Misdemeanors vs Felony Charges in Georgia

Felony offenses in Georgia are the state’s most serious crimes, often leading to the government asking for years in prison or on probation. Crimes like murder, rape, and drug trafficking fall under the most serious offenses in this category. The law differentiates felonies by severity, with variable penalties.

Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies and result in maximum penalties of up to one year in jail, smaller fines, or probation. These include minor theft, simple battery, minor drug offenses, and DUI and other traffic charges. Georgia’s legal framework distinctly classifies crimes, with sentencing guidelines based on the crime’s nature and the offender’s history.

But ‘Wobbler Laws’ Can Go Either Way

Georgia’s laws also contain ‘wobbler laws’ that provide judicial flexibility, allowing certain offenses to be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies based on the case’s specifics. A case that is tried as a misdemeanor might receive a more serious sentence. And vice versa, some felony charges in Georgia could be punished less harshly. This approach enables a flexible response to crimes including:

  • DUI
  • Identity fraud
  • Forgery
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism
  • Stalking

DUIs can be either misdemeanors or felonies. A set of factors can result in a prosector to charge a DUI as a felony in Georgia include situations where there are injuries, child endangerment, or habitual violations.

Should you get an attorney to help with your misdemeanor or felony criminal charge?

Every Judge in Georgia will tell you to have an attorney represent you on these charges. Dealing with the legal matters is daunting; it could have lifelong repercussions. A criminal record, irrespective of age, can disrupt various aspects of life, from driving privileges to educational pursuits, impacting college admissions, financial aid eligibility, insurance rates, housing options, credit standing, and future job prospects. The consequences of a felony conviction are even more severe, potentially leading to extended periods of incarceration and the loss of fundamental rights such as voting and firearm ownership.

What are the process steps and decisions in a criminal case?

Criminal defenses are unique because people’s circumstances and needs are unique. Some individuals have had prior encounters with law enforcement or have been on probation. Some individuals wish to mitigate punishments, hoping to avoid spending time in jail or on probation, while others are attempting to lessen financial fines, and still others may be focused on long-term implications of having the charge on their record.

Step 1: Encounter with Police

All criminal charges will follow from a law enforcement encounter, either during or just after alleged misconduct (such as for a traffic infraction) or days, weeks or months later (for example if the police are investigating a parked car being struck in someone’s neighborhood). While individuals do have rights during a police encounter, they don’t always exercise them.

Step 2: Ticket / Charge / Arrest

The police officer or law enforcement officer will give the offender a citation/ticket. In more serious criminal cases, a person can be arrested. Whether an individual is arrested or not, the ticket serves as the first step in an official charge. Criminal prosecutions are controlled by the prosecutor — not the police department, even when the officer files the initial charges.

Step 3: Release / Bond

Step 4: Court appearances

Step 5: Negotiation

We work on your behalf.

We are investigating the facts of the case – things that are true / aren’t true / are unknown.  And also identifying procedural problems in the government’s case.

We keep you in the loop.

Step 6: Trial / Plea to a lesser charge / Dismissal

Lots of things can happen at this step. But it all depends on our client’s needs and our expert navigation of the choices available.

Step 7: Close the case

We’ll help you put a criminal charge in Georgia in the rearview mirror. When a case closes, we’ll assist you to finish strong, navigating any final matters including license issues or other paperwork.

Atlanta Criminal Defense Process



  • What courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors in Georgia?

    Most misdemeanors are prosecuted exclusively in State or municipal court. Some smaller counties in Georgia may handle their misdemeanor offenses in Superior Court if they don’t have a State Court.

  • What kind of misdemeanors are prosecuted in Georgia?

In Georgia, misdemeanors are classified into two groups: misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature, which can result in a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000; and all other misdemeanors, which also have a maximum jail sentence of 12 months, but the maximum fine is $1,000.

  • What are the most serious consequences of a misdemeanor in Georgia?

A person can serve up to 12 months in jail on most misdemeanors. Many people are placed on probation in lieu of jail time. 

  • What other penalties may be imposed on misdemeanor offenses?

Penalties commonly include fines + surcharges; community service; education classes, safe driving classes; drug and alcohol evaluation and restitution.

  • Who decides the penalties in a misdemeanor case?

In the absence of a legal team to fight for the case, the final sentence will be up to the Judge after trial or the prosecutor if you are negotiating a plea deal.

  • Are there mandatory jail sentences in  misdemeanor cases?

Certain misdemeanor offenses in Georgia entail mandatory minimum sentences that cannot be suspended or probated. For instance, a second battery conviction against the same victim mandates a 10-day jail term that the defendant must serve. Moreover, misdemeanor hate crimes incur a stricter mandatory jail sentence of six months. 

Schedule a call with Erin

The EHG legal team, based in Atlanta, is well-equipped to handle a wide range of criminal charges in various counties across the metro-Atlanta area, including Fulton, Cherokee, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Clayton. The team is known for its frequent appearances in court and its successful track record in these cases.

In addition to her role on the Faculty of the National College for DUI Defense, Erin Gerstenzang has extensive experience and leadership in the field of criminal defense. She has served as the Chair of the Georgia Public Defender Council’s DUI Trial Strategies Annual Program for seven consecutive years, and is currently on the Executive Board of the Georgia Association for Criminal Defense Attorneys, where she also chairs the Judicial Recommendation Committee.

Schedule a call with Attorney Erin Gerstenzang

When you’re facing a criminal charge, you can rely on Defense Attorney Erin Gerstenzang. Contact our offices today to discuss your case.

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