Georgia Drug Laws
A Brief Overview of Georgia’s Drug Laws
When facing drug charges in Georgia, it’s essential to understand the repercussions that might arise beyond just jail time. Georgia drug crimes can have severe collateral consequences, including property loss, driving privileges, and employment opportunities.
State and federal law charges could result from any detention related to controlled substance cases or drugs listed on the narcotic schedules.
Therefore, when someone is arrested for a drug possession crime in Athens, GA, it is important that they seek the counsel of an Athens criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of Georgia drug possession laws and a track record of successful outcomes in drug possession cases, including winning numerous motions to suppress that resulted in the dismissal of serious drug charges.
Georgia Drug Schedule Laws
Georgia Controlled Substances Act regulates all drugs in the state. Georgia Law classifies them into 5 Schedules. The purpose of schedules is to categorize drugs so they can be regulated similarly based on their shared characteristics. Controlled substance schedules are regulated by the federal government and codified in the State of Georgia’s O.C.G.A. 16-13-25 through 16-13-29.
A Schedule I drug has no recognized medicinal value, and there is a significant potential for misuse, including the following drugs: Heroin, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA.).
Narcotic Schedule II drugs are those that have a strong potential for misuse but also have accepted medical applications. Drugs classified in this category include Cocaine, Amphetamine, Opium, Morphine, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Ketamine, and Fentanyl.
Schedule III substances are less likely to cause severe psychological or physical dependence than Schedule I or II substances. However, they still have some accepted medical use. Schedule III includes substances or compounds containing small quantities of narcotics, as well as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, anabolic steroids, and some barbiturates.
Schedule IV medications have some legitimate medical use but can have minimal adverse effects on the body and mind if overused, making them less dangerous than Schedule III substances. Drugs like Xanax, Clonazepam, and Valium fall within this schedule.
Substances under Schedule V have some accepted medical use but cause only moderate psychological or physical dependence in the event of prolonged misuse (in comparison to Schedule IV substances). Some Schedule V medications contain traces of narcotics, such as concentrated forms or combinations of narcotics.
Is Possession of Controlled Substances Illegal?
Georgia drug possession laws strictly regulate drug possession, whether it is legal or illegal. Narcotics possession is particularly harshly punished under Georgia drug possession laws, and even a small amount of an illicit drug can lead to harsh penalties.
In Georgia, manufacturing, delivering, distributing, or possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute is punishable by law as a misdemeanor or felony.
The prosecutor must provide evidence that the defendant possessed a controlled substance in order to prosecute drug crimes. According to state law, there are two types of possession: actual possession and constructive possession. A person is considered to have “constructive possession” of drugs if they are found at their residence, car, or place of business, rather than “actual possession,” which occurs when the substance is on them. Legal ownership and possession of drugs in your space are based on the presumption that you exercise some control over these places.
Controlled Substance Possession Penalties
The penalties for breaking this law vary according to the substance involved, the schedule it is placed in, and the quantity involved. Except for marijuana, possessing any other illegal narcotic is a felony in Georgia. The following are the repercussions:
The punishment for possessing a Schedule I controlled substance or Schedule II narcotic drug in quantities below four grams (or four milliliters of a liquid) can range from one to three years in prison. The range is from one to eight years in jail for quantities between four and ten grams (or ten and twenty milliliters of a solid). Convictions for further offenses carry a maximum sentence of 30 years.
For Schedule II compounds less than two grams (or milliliters) in volume, penalties range from one to three years in prison, while for four grams (or milliliters) or more, penalties range from one to eight years in prison.
Possession of a controlled substance classified as a Schedule III, IV, or V offender faces a sentence of one (1) to five (5) years in prison. A subsequent conviction carries a sentence of one year up to ten years in jail.
Factors Influencing the Severity of Penalties
The severity of punishments or penalties greatly depends on the previous records or criminal history of the defendant. The amount of drug involved can also be a significantly important factor. Large quantities of drug possession arrests would lead you to face severe penalties. The risk associated with large quantities is the distribution to other people.
If the defendant has no records of criminal convictions in the past, they may receive a lighter sentence. On the other hand, if the defendant has subsequent offenses or several criminal convictions on his record, the penalties would be severe, and there will be no leniency.
Usually, repeat offenders are subjected to mandatory minimum sentences or other enhanced penalties.
Age, use of any weapon, and the place where the offense occurred are other important factors. If the offense occurred near a drug-free zone like a school, the defendant could face harsh penalties.
Marijuana Possession Laws in Georgia
Georgia prohibits the use of marijuana. Several cities and counties have attempted to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, but these laws violate Georgia laws and federal drug laws.
The State defines possession of 1 to 4 grams of solid marijuana or 1 to 4 milliliters of liquid marijuana as a felony. Marijuana possession under an ounce is a misdemeanor in Georgia and can result in a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or 12 months of community service. Possessing any marijuana over an ounce is considered a felony and can lead to a prison sentence of one to ten years.
Depending on the amount of marijuana used, possessing marijuana for the purpose of distributing, cultivating, selling, delivering, or dispensing it are a felony punishable by one to thirty years in prison and a fine of one hundred thousand to one million dollars.
Do First-Time Drug Offenders Go to Jail in Georgia?
You may qualify for a conditional discharge or the Georgia First Offender Act program if this is your first offense and you have no prior convictions for drug-related crimes or fraud charges.
According to the Georgia First Offender Act, first-time offenders who meet certain requirements can avoid a conviction on their record and instead receive a conditional discharge. A conditional discharge is a form of alternative sentencing in which the judge may dismiss a drug charge upon fulfilling certain conditions. Misdemeanors are more likely to qualify for first-offender status than felonies.
Defenses to a Drug Possession Charge
There are three common defense routes available to the person charged with a drug possession case in GA. Use of any of the following defenses is common, but each requires thorough preparation.
- You had another person who had equal access to the drugs. The context of this defense is prevalent in automobiles. This defense might help if you can prove that the other person had equal access to the vehicle or if others used the vehicle. Then both individuals would have their fair share of conviction.
- You had a lawful prescription for the drugs. This defense is applicable to those controlled substances that can lawfully be prescribed by a doctor. If the accused person had a valid prescription signed by a medical professional, the accused could use this defense.
- The accused was on the scene at the time of the offense but did not participate in the transaction. This is the general rule that the presence of a person at the crime scene is not enough to establish a connection with the crime. If the accused person did not assist in obtaining or handling anything related to the drug transaction or any illegal activity, he might be able to defend against the charges of drug possession arrest.
How a Defense Lawyer Can Help
The facts of your case, the prosecutor’s disposition, and the quality of your legal representation will all significantly impact your criminal case’s possible outcome. An experienced Athens criminal defense attorney will conduct thorough initial case research and employ several defensive tactics.
Depending on the circumstances of the search, your lawyer can determine if the authorities stopped, detained, or searched you illegally before finding the narcotics. Ultimately, if a judge ruled that the stop was illegal, the search warrant and the evidence would be nullified.
When you are charged with possessing a Schedule I substance and prove that you did not possess it, you can use this as a defense against constructive possession charges. Even just being present with a controlled substance does not constitute possessing it.
Depending on the actual charges against you, your lawyer can poke holes in the prosecution’s case to try to get the charges dismissed. For example, if you are charged with possessing a Schedule I substance but prove you did not possess it, you can use that as a defense to constructive possession charges.