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A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Drug Offenses

Drug possession charges can result in years behind bars and potentially a lifetime of carrying the “convicted felon” label. Such charges are often taken lightly, but in reality they are quite serious. Having a “convicted felon” label can affect your job, education, housing, and personal relationships. Georgia courts take drug offenses very seriously.

Simple Possession, Possession with Intent to Distribute, Sale of Contraband and Trafficking are the primary drug offenses prosecuted as VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act). Marijuana possession is typically a misdemeanor, so usually we see cocaine and methamphetamine as the primary controlled narcotics. There has been a huge surge in prescription drug possession probably occasioned by the ease of acquiring controlled substances via internet.

Simple possession: This is the most common drug offense and can generally be defined as possessing a user amount of a controlled substance.
Possession with Intent to Distribute: This is typically prosecuted when simple possession quantities are discovered with sale related items such as scales, money, or plastic baggies.

Sale of Contraband: This is just a sale.

Trafficking: This is possessing any amount of cocaine or methamphetamine over 28 grams.

Georgia law classifies drug possession penalties by the type of drug. The drugs are categorized into different “schedules:”
Schedule 1: These drugs are the most addictive and have no legitimate medical use. They include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and GHB.
Schedule 2: These drugs are also highly addictive. They include methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, morphine, opium, and methadone.
Schedule 3: This category includes steroids like testosterone and ketamine.
Schedule 4, 5, and 6: These drugs are sometimes prescribed by physicians, but when taken outside the orders of a doctor, they are considered illegal.

Type of Drug

Offense

Penalty

Marijuana, <1 oz.

Misdemeanor

Up to $1,000 and 1 year in jail

Marijuana, >1oz.

Felony

1-10 years in prison and fines

Schedules I & II, first offense

Felony

1-15 years in prison and fines

Schedules I & II, second + offense

Felony

5-40 years in prison and fines

Schedules I & 2, <1 g

Felony

1-3 years in prison and fines

Schedules I & 2, 1-4 g

Felony

1-8 years in prison and fines

Schedules I & 2, 4-28 g

Felony

1-15 years in prison and fines

Schedules 3, 4, & 5, first offense

Felony

1-3 years in prison and fines

Schedules 3, 4, & 5, second + offense

Felony

1-5 years in prison and fines

Pre-trial Diversion programs are available in some jurisdictions for simple possession cases. These programs allow you to complete certain requirements in a specified time period and once completed, the charges will be dismissed and eligible for expungement from your record. To manage felony drug possession it is more common to use “drug courts” because research has shown that they are highly effective at combating repeat arrests. Drug courts typically require an intensive period of judicially supervised drug abuse counseling. The reward for participation is a dismissed charge and expungement of the record. There are also special “first offender” provisions of the Georgia Code that keep criminal convictions off your record. Under the Georgia First Offender Act, a defendant, at the time of entering a plea, can request that the judge sentence the defendant to First Offender Georgia treatment. If the judge agrees, then after the defendant completes the terms and conditions of the sentence, the defendant is deemed to not have a criminal conviction.

We aggressively fight drug cases. To get a conviction, the government must prove that you had “knowledge” and “control” of the substance. It is not enough to show that you were just nearby the contraband or in close proximity to the contraband. The law says that “mere special proximity to contraband” is not enough for a conviction. Additionally, the government must prove that the seizure of drugs was legal. A car can be searched without a warrant, but the police need probable cause to believe that drugs will be found inside the vehicle. The most common method by which police gain entry into a vehicle is by consent from the owner. A home cannot be searched without a warrant. Motions to Dismiss for illegal searches and seizures are regularly filed and litigated in drug possession cases.