All crimes punishable by a sentence of one year or more in prison are felonies under Georgia's laws. In contrast, misdemeanor sentences are usually served in county or local jails and are less than one year in length.
For more information on misdemeanors in Georgia, see Georgia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Unlike many states, Georgia does not designate crimes by class (such as "Class A felony" or "Class 1 felony"). Instead, Georgia's laws designate crimes as misdemeanors or felonies and assign sentences on a crime-by-crime basis.
The most serious felonies are punishable by the death penalty (for murder only) or life imprisonment. Other serious crimes (including kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, and other sex crimes) are punishable by a minimum of 10 or 25 years in prison. Less serious crimes (such as theft crimes) are punishable by shorter prison terms.
For example, rape is punishable by 25 years to life imprisonment or life without parole. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-1.)
For more information about rape penalties in Georgia, see Georgia Sexual Battery Laws.
People convicted of felonies in Georgia may also have to pay fines. The amount of the fine varies depending on the crime.
Some crimes are punishable as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances. These crimes are called "wobblers." In Georgia, a judge may sentence any defendant convicted of a felony punishable by ten years or less in prison to a misdemeanor sentence instead of a felony sentence.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-5.)
Statutes of limitations impose time limits for criminal prosecutions. The statute of limitation begins to "run" when the crime is committed. Usually, more serious crimes have longer statutes of limitations. Murder, for example, has no statute of limitations.
For more information, see Georgia Criminal Statute of Limitations.
A felony conviction can result in time in prison, a fine, and a serious criminal record, which can prevent you from holding certain jobs. Many felony convictions also have to be reported to licensing boards or employers, or both. Your best chance of obtaining a favorable sentence, no matter what the charge, is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney.