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What Are the Possible Penalties for Murder in Georgia?

Georgia law is very tough on defendants who are convicted of murder. A life sentence with the possibility of parole is the minimum punishment. Unlike some other states, Georgia does not divide murder into separate degrees in most situations. The basic legal distinction is that murder involves “malice aforethought” while manslaughter is the result of a sudden passion or reckless conduct.

State law in Georgia affords great deference to courts when it comes to sentencing. The following is a brief overview and the penalties associated with each type of homicide.

Murder and manslaughter

Not much leeway exists for someone who is found guilty of murder in Georgia. For most of these convictions, the only three punishments are life with parole, life without parole, or the death penalty. Though there is a crime known as “murder in the second degree,” this only applies to cases when a death results during an instance of second-degree cruelty to children. The sentence for this crime is incarceration for 10 to 30 years.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone in the heat of passion causes the death of another person. The surrounding circumstances play a major role in the length of the sentence, which can run from one year to 20 years.

When someone’s unintentional but reckless conduct leads to a death, this is classified as involuntary manslaughter. Georgia law mandates a sentence between one year and 10 years under this count.

The death penalty and aggravating factors in murder sentencing

Georgia has the death penalty, and so especially serious crimes could lead to the offender being put to death. Life in prison without parole is another option for very serious cases. Courts may only impose these penalties when aggravating factors exist. Examples of aggravating factors include:

  • A record that includes conviction for a prior capital felony
  • A murder that causes a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place
  • A murder that is committed against a law enforcement officer or judge during the exercise of their official duties
  • A crime that was wantonly vile or outrageous, involving torture, a depraved mind or an aggravated battery to the victim

For more information on the complications of murder cases in the state of Georgia, contact a trusted criminal defense attorney at the law office of James D. Michael, P.C.