Georgia marijuana laws are tough
The severity of drug crime charges depends on the kind and amount of the drug in question. In Georgia, being convicted of possessing drugs like heroin, MDMA, LSD and Ecstasy — all Schedule I drugs — will generally result in heavier penalties than the ones handed down for possession of marijuana, which is not regarded as a “scheduled” substance.
Still, Georgia law is tough on marijuana. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana carries a felony status. For that charge alone, you face a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years.
While the stakes are always high in Georgia drug cases, it is often possible to negotiate with prosecutors to have a drug charge reduced or even dismissed. Police officers conduct unlawful traffic stops and searches more often than most people realize, and uncovering a violation of a defendant’s rights could be grounds to suppress evidence and have the case dismissed.
If you have been arrested for a drug crime, don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced criminal drug defense lawyer. Early intervention by a defense attorney is important to protect your rights and ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
How Georgia classifies controlled substances
While it goes without saying that the vast majority of people are fully aware that it is a crime to be in possession of certain drugs — or controlled substances — most don’t understand how exactly the law is structured and what sorts of penalties are handed down in relation this crime.
In general, Georgia state law mimics the federal Controlled Substances Act in that it divides substances into five different schedules based on both their accepted medical uses and likelihood of addiction/abuse.
- Schedule I substances: No accepted medical use and have a high likelihood of addiction/abuse; Includes heroin, MDMA and peyote.
- Schedule II substances: Have an accepted medical use but are subject to restrictions, and have a high likelihood of addiction/abuse; Includes Oxycodone, methamphetamine and cocaine.
- Schedule III substances: Have an accepted medical use and a lower likelihood of addiction/abuse than Schedule I or II substances; Includes ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone.
- Schedule IV substances: Have an accepted medical use and a lower likelihood of addiction/abuse than III substances; Includes Lorazepam, Clonazepam and Diazepam.
- Schedule V substances: Have an accepted medical use and a lower likelihood of addiction/abuse than Schedule IV substances; Includes cough preparations with certain amounts of codeine, opium or other substances.
Having established how controlled substances are classified under state law, our next criminal law post will explore some of the penalties associated with their possession, which as you might imagine can prove to be rather severe.
If you have been arrested for any sort of drug-related crime — possession, sales, manufacture — contact our office to speak to a drug attorney who can protect your rights and your freedom as soon as possible. Call our Cumming, Georgia office at 770-887-1209 today. Banks, Stubbs, & McFarland represents those facing drug charges in Forsyth County and surrounding counties.
What are the penalties for drug crimes in Georgia?
What are the penalties associated with being convicted of a drug offense? Drug crime penalties generally scale according to the schedule of drug involved, the amount of the drug involved and what the defendant did or intended to do with the substance.
Non-trafficking penalties for purchasing, possession or controlling an illegal drug
Georgia Code Section 16-13-30 sets out the consequences for conviction of possession or purchase of various controlled substances. The most serious of these would be Schedule I or II drugs. These will include so-called “hard drugs” like heroin or cocaine, among others. For possession of these drugs, the sentence can be between two and 15 years for a first offense. Subsequent convictions could carry from five to 30 years. For lesser drugs, such as those of schedules III, IV, or V, a conviction can result in imprisonment of between one and five years for a first offense, or between one and ten years for subsequent ones.
Of course, these penalties would be heavier in cases of trafficking charges such as intent to distribute, which we may cover in another post. It should also be noted that all of the above convictions would be considered felonies, with all the attendant restrictions that come along with that category of criminal record. These can include loss of rights, such as to vote or carry a firearm, or the requirement to disclose such a record on applications for certain jobs. It is important to recall that simply being charged with such a crime does not make one guilty, and that defendants have certain rights in criminal proceedings.
Given the seriousness of the potential penalties, those facing charges of drug crimes may wish to consider contacting a Georgia criminal drug defense lawyer. Call the law firm of Banks, Stubbs & McFarland at 770-887-1209 for a free consultation with an attorney who handles drug trafficking cases.
Drug Trafficking: The difference between possession and distribution
The ‘war on drugs’ has been going on for decades now, depending on whether one traces its origins back to the Reagan era declaration, or the crackdowns of the 1960s. In this time, while some progress has been claimed, it is indisputable that illegal drugs are still with us, and it seems unlikely that they will disappear anytime soon. We’ve previously discussed the beginning of a trend toward the legalization of marijuana in the United States, though the substance remains illegal in Georgia. We have also talked about some of the penalties the state imposes when a person is convicted of possessing controlled substances.
There is, of course, another possible crime with which those who come in contact with law enforcement during a drug arrest can be charged as well: trafficking. Under Georgia law, the potential penalties between simply possessing a certain controlled substance and manufacturing, selling or delivering such contraband can be substantial. To take just one example, as we pointed out previously, the conviction of possession of a schedule I or II drug, such as cocaine, could result in between two and 15 years in prison for a first offense. The potential penalty for a first conviction for distributing or selling the same drug could be between five and 30 years of incarceration. If it is a subsequent offense the sentence can range from ten to 40 years.
So, being caught allegedly selling one of these types of substances can be a bad thing for a defendant. But the statute’s penalties also apply to those with intent to distribute, as well. This means that police or prosecutors might take certain evidence and use it to threaten a defendant with a longer prison term in order to elicit a confession or plea deal. They might say that the amount of drug found implies that one was intending to distribute it, for example, or that cash found nearby evidences the selling of the drug.
If you are facing drug charges in Georgia, you should realize that you may be facing hard time. This is especially true if law enforcement can make a case for trafficking. In these cases, protecting your constitutional rights against illegal searches and seizure, and improper questioning can be paramount. Further, having experience in the ways police and prosecutors use possession and trafficking offenses to make deals can result in a better outcome for a person facing drug charges.
Contact our office at 770-887-1209 to discuss your case with one of our drug crime attorneys. There may be valid defenses against your drug charges that only an expert drug lawyer can identify.
Can you be convicted of selling fake drugs in Georgia?
While there has been talk for several years now about finding some alternative ways of combating the illicit substance abuse problem in the country, there have not been meaningful policy changes in most areas. Therefore, the nation continues to incarcerate a huge number of its citizens for drug offenses.
In Georgia, conviction for drug offenses can result in serious penalties, especially if those convictions include a charge of intent to distribute. The amount of jail time or other consequences defendants face in drug cases often depends upon the type of substance involved. But, what if someone is arrested for a drug offense when the substance involved is not actually the controlled substance it is supposed to be?
Georgia Code Section 16-13-21 contains the definitions that are relevant to drug crimes in the state. For our purposes in this post, we are looking at paragraph (12.1), which tells us what the state views as an ‘imitation controlled substance.’ To paraphrase, these substances are those that are made specifically to resemble a controlled substance, or are substantially similar enough to one, that with representations as to the fact that it is an actual illegal drug, a reasonable person couldn’t tell the difference.
Basically, the idea behind this law is to stop individuals from passing off other substances as an illegal drug, and attempting to avoid prosecution by claiming they hadn’t broken the controlled substance law since no actual illegal substance was involved. Section 16-13-30.2 of the state code stipulates that anyone convicted of knowingly making of knowingly attempting to distribute such fake drugs can be penalized for a misdemeanor of a highly aggravated nature.
It is important to notice the intent requirement in this law. Merely possessing a substance that a law enforcement officer thinks may be an illegal drug may not be sufficient for a conviction. In situations like this, it is important that people accused of drug crimes explore all their legal options.
If you have been accused of selling fake drugs in Georgia, contact our office at 770-887-1209 or through our contact form to discuss your options with an experienced drug crime attorney.
What is constructive possession in Georgia drug cases?
The war on drugs has been waged for over three decades at this point, and it doesn’t seem like there’s an armistice in sight any time soon. With political candidates on national and state continuing to run on law and order platforms, it seems likely that the pursuit and prosecution of criminal cases for drug possession will continue into the foreseeable future. Because of this, it may be interesting to take a quick look at possession in Georgia drug crimes cases.
Whether one is charged with simple possession or possession with intent to distribute can play a major role in determining the punishment a defendant may face. Except in cases where a person has been caught in a sting operation where he or she has been arrested in the act of distributing illegal drugs, prosecutors may attempt to show this intent by using an inference based upon the amount of drugs found, or the coupling of drugs with other items, such as cash or weighing tools found when a search was conducted. The use of inferences to make a case are not limited to this facet of a drug case, however.
Law enforcement may attempt to build a case against a person for drug possession even if the individual in question did not actually possess the drugs at the time of a search or arrest. This can be done because of a legal concept of constructive possession. Constructive possession differs from actual possession in that the possession of the item is inferred from where it was found. Illegal drugs found in one’s vehicle or house, for example, may lead to a charge of drug possession even if one was in a different city at the time of the discovery. This is because a court may consider that items in a place over which a defendant has control are, in fact possessed by the defendant.
There are defenses to such an inference, of course, such as a showing that the defendant is not the only one having control and access to the area under consideration. The existence of a roommate, perhaps, or someone else who regularly uses a vehicle might help in creating reasonable doubt with regard to an inference of constructive possession. These defenses can get highly technical however, and those facing drug crimes charges may wish to consider consulting an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney at Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP.