Sentencing & Penalties

When Am I Sentenced?

For some misdemeanor charges, you may be sentenced on the same day as a conviction. In the case of a felony conviction, sentencing is typically a separate court date, so that time is given for sentencing reports & recommendations to be filed.

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Depending on your conviction, you may be waiting in jail until your sentencing date. Your attorney will be working on your case to determine the best ways to help you during this time.

How does a judge decide on the sentence?

When it comes time for the judge to sentence you, he will take several things into consideration. One of the biggest determining factors of your sentence will be the crime you committed.

When it comes to sentencing, the difference between and misdemeanor and felony conviction is:

Misdemeanor: For a misdemeanor conviction in Georgia, you will face less than 1 year in prison and fines of no more than $1,000.

Misdemeanor of a High and Aggravated Nature: For an aggravated misdemeanor conviction, you will face less than one year in prison and fines no more than $5,000.

Felony: For a felony conviction in Georgia, you will face more than one year in prison and potential fines greater than $1,000.

A pre-sentence investigation may be ordered by the Court or by your attorney to assist the Judge in sentencing. If this is the case, a probation officer will gather all sorts of information about you and present it in a report to the Court.

The pre-sentence report will include everything from your past criminal history, your employment record, your family situation, and your present living environment. The judge will use this information to assist him in deciding what type of sentence will be best for you.

A large part of the report is the investigating officer’s recommendation to the Court. So, if the investigating officer believes you would be a good candidate for probation, this will be included and the judge will take it into consideration.

If there is a victim in your crime that wishes to speak or have a statement read at your sentencing, the judge will also take that into consideration. A victim impact statement can detail how the crime has affected the victim and describe any changes in their life as a result of the crime.

If the victim is no longer alive, family members can give victim impact statements.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines must be followed by the judge. These guidelines are rules about sentencing created by the Federal Government.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines state that certain crimes in certain circumstances call for specific sentences. The guidelines give the judge a range for each crime and the judge sentences within this range dependant on your crime’s specific circumstances.

While the judge will most likely follow these guidelines, they are “advisory” and not mandatory, which means the judge can depart from them if she so chooses.

Serious Violent Felonies – Penalties

Serious violent felonies are subject to mandatory minimum sentences in the State of Georgia. If you are convicted of one of the following, you will be sentenced at least the corresponding prison term.

Serious Violent Felony  Mandatory Sentence
Kidnapping where victim is >14 yrs. or Armed Robbery 10 years
Kidnapping where victim is <14 yrs. or Rape, or Aggravated child molestation, or Aggravated sodomy, or Aggravated sexual battery 25 years

Repeat Offenders can receive longer prison sentences. If this is your fourth felony conviction, you will receive the longest possible sentence for this latest conviction.

This means the judge will impose the longest sentence recommended by the guidelines.

If this is your fourth serious violent felony, you will be sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole.

Suspended Sentence

If a judge believes you are a good candidate for probation she may suspend your sentence. A suspended sentence means your prison term is placed on hold while you fulfill your probation obligations.

If you violate your probationary terms, the judge could revoke your probation and you would potentially be facing your entire prison term.

What makes a good candidate for probation?

There are several things a judge may take into consideration when determining if you would be a good candidate for a suspended sentence and probationary supervision.

  • Your criminal history- If you have an extensive rap sheet, a judge may consider you more likely to re-offend and a poor choice for probation.
  • A history of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Your employment and ties to the community- If you are consistently unemployed and move frequently, you could be seen as a bad risk and a poor choice for probation.
  • Your crime- Obviously not all crimes are eligible for suspended sentence.
  • Other circumstances- A judge can make the decision based on their experience in dealing with probationers. If they see things in your life or the circumstances of the crime, you may be denied the chance at a suspended sentence.

Studies have also shown that if you are represented by an attorney, you are more likely to be granted probation.