High and Aggravated Misdemeanors

Are You Facing a Conviction For a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor in Georgia? 

In Georgia, there are two classifications of crimes.  A crime can either be a felony or a misdemeanor offense.  Of the two, a felony is generally a more serious crime and is punishable by prison terms exceeding one year and fines not less than $1,000.  Felony offenses in Georgia include possession of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, robbery, aggravated assault, battery, theft by taking, murder, rape, and kidnapping.

A misdemeanor offense is a crime punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.  Misdemeanor offenses in Georgia include shoplifting, DUI in Georgia, possession of marijuana less than one ounce, and public intoxication.

An offense can be “upgraded” from a misdemeanor offense to a high and aggravated misdemeanor offense under certain circumstances.  In most cases, this occurs when a person has committed and been convicted of the same offense multiple times in a specified period of time.

For instance, a third Georgia DUI offense is upgraded to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature while a first Georgia DUI offense or second Georgia DUI offense is an ordinary misdemeanor.  Some offenses are classified as high and aggravated even when the offender has no prior criminal history.  Aggressive driving, fleeing or eluding a police officer, pimping, and battery against a pregnant woman are all classified as high and aggravated misdemeanor offenses.

For a non-felony charge, during sentencing the judge has discretion to order jail time, probation with mandatory reporting and monthly fees, fines, restitution, community service, substance abuse counseling, classes, and the suspension of your driver's license.  These consequences can have a significant impact on your daily life and affect your ability to work, go to school, and seek future employment.

You may also face consequences relating to your ability to obtain loans, financial aid, government assistance, and government security clearances. If the offense is classified as being of a high and aggravated nature, the maximum fine increases to $5,000 and there is also a limitation on the amount of credit allowed for “good time served” for a jail sentence.

How Does Georgia Law Define a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor?

O.C.G.A. § 17-10-4 reads as follows:

(a) A person who is convicted of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $5,000.00 or by confinement in the county or other jail, county correctional institution, or such other places as counties may provide for maintenance of county inmates, for a term not to exceed 12 months, or both; provided, however, that a person convicted of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature which was committed by an inmate within the confines of a state correctional institution and sentenced to confinement as a result of such offense shall be sentenced to confinement under the jurisdiction of the Board of Corrections in a state correctional institution or such other institution as the Department of Corrections may direct for a term which shall not exceed 12 months. In all cases of a conviction of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, the sentencing court shall retain jurisdiction to amend, modify, alter, suspend, or probate sentences imposed under this Code section at any time; but in no instance shall a sentence imposed under this Code section be modified in such a manner as to increase the amount of fine or the term of confinement.

(b) Notwithstanding any laws to the contrary, a person sentenced for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature may earn no more than four days per month earned time allowance.

The Consequences of Being Convicted of a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor in Georgia:

The main consequence of a misdemeanor being classified as “high and aggravated” is the restriction on earned time credit in jail sentencing.  The duty to compute jail time is upon the Department of Corrections. See O.C.G.A. § 17-10-12; Williams v. State, 300 Ga. App. 319 (2009). Because a person convicted of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature can only get good time credit for a maximum of four days per month, that person must serve 26 days in jail for a 30 day sentence, with credit for any time served at arrest, which is discussed in more detail below.

Every person convicted of a crime in Georgia is given full credit for each day spent in confinement after arrest or awaiting trial for the offense the person was eventually convicted and sentenced on.  O.C.G.A. § 17-10-11 reads:

(a) Each person convicted of a crime in this state shall be given full credit for each day spent in confinement awaiting trial and for each day spent in confinement, in connection with and resulting from a court order entered in the criminal proceedings for which sentence was imposed, in any institution or facility for treatment or examination of a physical or mental disability. The credit or credits shall be applied toward the convicted person's sentence and shall also be considered by parole authorities in determining the eligibility of the person for parole.

(b) This Code section applies to sentences for all crimes, whether classified as violations, misdemeanors, or felonies, and to all courts having criminal jurisdiction located within the boundaries of this state.

However, the Sheriff is also authorized to award earned time allowances to inmates based on behavior, so long as the earned time credit awarded does not exceed one-half of the person's sentence. Many jails in Georgia also award “2 for 1” credit, meaning that for every day spent in jail, a person receives credit for two days of his or her sentence.

However, the Sheriff is also authorized to award earned time allowances to inmates based on behavior, so long as the earned time credit awarded does not exceed one-half of the person's sentence. Many jails in Georgia also award “2 for 1” credit, meaning that for every day spent in jail, a person receives credit for two days of his or her sentence.

A Sheriff is authorized to award as much as four days credit for each day spend on an authorized work detail, but the law specifically exempts persons incarcerated for a high and aggravated misdemeanor charge or even persons convicted of a second DUI offense within a five year period from earning such increased credit. See O.C.G.A. § 42-4-7.

The Lasting Effects of Having a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor on Your Criminal Record:

High and aggravated misdemeanor convictions can have lasting effects which may cause increased sentencing if the person is later convicted of another offense or violates the terms of his or her probation.  O.C.G.A. § 42-8-35.4(a) allows a judge to require a defendant previously convicted of “a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature [who] has violated probation or other probation alternatives and is subsequently sentenced to a period of not less than one year on probation [to] complete satisfactorily, as a condition of that probation, a program of confinement, not to exceed 180 days, in a probation detention center. Probationers so sentenced shall be required to serve the period of confinement, not to exceed 180 days, specified in the court order.”

In Georgia, DUI jail sentences can range from 24 hours to 5 years depending on the number of prior offenses within a specific time period.  A first or second DUI offense within a ten year period is a misdemeanor. A third DUI offense within a ten year period, though, is classified as a high and aggravated misdemeanor with the minimum jail sentence allowed by law being 15 days in jail.  Because of the classification of the offense, any person convicted of a third DUI offense in ten years and given the minimum sentence will serve the full 15 days in jail, only being given credit for time served at the time of arrest.

A fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years (for arrests after July 1, 2008) is a felony offense. The maximum penalty for a fourth DUI conviction in Georgia within 10 years is 5 years in jail and a $5,000.00 fine plus court surcharges. The minimum penalty is a one year jail sentence of which all but 90 days can be probated, with credit for any time served after arrest, and a $1,000.00 fine.

Because a prior record can lead to significantly increased consequences for future arrests and convictions, it is imperative to fight any and all charges if viable defenses are available to you.  Even the most innocuous misdemeanor offense can result in the person having a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their life.  Even a “no contest” or nolo contendere plea will effectively result in a conviction.

A judge is allowed to consider a person's prior criminal history when determining a sentence, so if the person is convicted of another crime in the future, his or her criminal record will influence the judge's sentencing order. The judge can impose a lengthy and enhanced sentence on that person because of his or her criminal record. One of the worst things a person can do is walk into a courtroom for the first time completely unprepared with little or no knowledge of how to proceed, how his or her past record will be used in the current case, or how this case can affect that person's future.

If You Are Charged in Georgia With A High and Aggravated Misdemeanor, There Is Help:

It is absolutely essential that any person charged with a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor get legal help as soon as possible. The penalties for a High and Aggravated Georgia DUI can be severe.  There is help.  You do not have to face a harsh and unreasonable sentence.  There are alternative sentences.  You may be able to also fight and win your DUI caseContact our office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for immediate attention.  We work nights, weekends, and holidays because you need help on your schedule.

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