If you’ve been arrested on a drug possession charge in Georgia, you may face severe penalties. You could be sentenced to jail time, be fined, or have your driver’s license suspended. Both misdemeanor and felony charges can have significant repercussions for your life, including your personal relationships, your employment, progress in school toward a degree, and even your freedom if you are sentenced to jail time.
Georgia laws that punish drug possession are extremely complicated. If you have been accused of or charged with drug possession, it’s a good idea to discuss your case with an experienced Atlanta drug possession lawyer so that you are fully apprised of your rights, the law, and all potential defenses.
The Atlanta area’s rapid growth over the past several decades and its central location in the Southeastern United States have made it a significant center for drug distribution and transportation in the region, according to the Georgia Drug Threat Assessment. As a result, the state has enacted severe penalties for drug-related charges under the Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. Possessing, selling, or cultivating even a small amount of an illegal substance may be against the law under this strict statute.
Drug Laws in Georgia
Drug possession laws are part of Georgia’s controlled substances statutes. These laws classify drugs into five different “schedules” based on how likely it is that a user will abuse that substance. Of the five schedules, Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and Schedule V the least. Note, however, that this does not mean that offenses involving Schedule V drugs come with light penalties. All crimes involving controlled substances come with potentially severe penalties.
Schedule I drugs do not have any accepted medical use and are not considered safe, even when taken under a medical professional’s supervision. These drugs include heroin, LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy), psilocybin (mushrooms), and marijuana.
In the last several years, an increasing number of states have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use. Marijuana is not legal for any purpose in Georgia, however. Legalization in other states also has no bearing at all on Georgia law. Possession of under one ounce of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor, which usually carries a lesser penalty than a felony. But, again, Georgia drug laws are complicated. In some situations, marijuana possession is charged as felony possession of a Schedule I substance, and comes with more severe penalties.
Schedule II substances have a medical purpose when they are used under professional medical supervision. They include drugs such as OxyContin and morphine. But the likelihood of a user developing psychological or physical dependence is high.
Schedule III drugs are legal when they are used under professional medical supervision, and the risk that users will abuse them or develop a dependency on them is low to moderate. Examples include Vicodin and anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV and V
Schedule IV and V drugs are substances that are commonly prescribed by medical professionals and their potential for causing abuse or dependency is low. Schedule IV drugs include Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, and Ambien, a sleep aid. Schedule V substances include cough medicines that contain small amounts of codeine.
Georgia does not recognize a medical use for marijuana. Section OCGA 16-13-30 of the Georgia code of laws covers the penalties for marijuana possession. While possession of under an ounce is a misdemeanor, possession of more than one ounce and up to 10 pounds is a felony. If someone is found in possession of 10 pounds or more of marijuana, they may be charged with drug trafficking.
What Is Drug Possession?
Drug possession is exactly what it sounds like. It is being caught by law enforcement with an illegal substance. This includes a person who possesses certain commonly prescribed drugs but who does not have a prescription or some other legal reason to have the drugs.
Possession With Intent to Sell
Possession with intent to sell is a separate charge from simple drug possession, and the penalties are very severe. An arresting officer may determine you have intent to sell by looking at several factors, including the total amount you have in your possession, how the drugs are packaged, whether sophisticated measuring devices are in proximity, and whether large amounts of money are present.
Trafficking Drugs and Drug-Related Objects
If you are found with a large amount of drugs, you may be charged with drug trafficking, one of the most serious drug-related crimes under Georgia law. The penalties for drug trafficking depend upon whether law enforcement determines that you are involved in the manufacture, sale, delivery, or possession of prohibited drugs. The penalties depend on the drug’s schedule and the quantities found.
What Are the Penalties for Drug Possession in Georgia?
If you are convicted of drug possession in Georgia, the penalties depend on several factors, including the drug’s classification and whether you have been convicted of previous possession charges.
Most charges for possession of controlled substances are felonies. A felony conviction in Georgia results in a minimum of one year of jail time, but most drug possession convictions come with much longer jail sentences. A felony conviction also results in a criminal record, which can negatively affect your employment prospects, educational prospects, and many other areas of your life.
If you are convicted of possessing Schedule I, II, or III drugs, you face up to 15 years in prison (and up to 30 years for repeat offenses).
If you are convicted of possessing Schedule III, IV, or V drugs, you face up to 5 years in prison (and up to 10 years for further offenses).
A conviction for possessing one ounce less of marijuana can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Possessing more than one ounce of marijuana is a felony, and a conviction carries a mandatory prison term of one year. A court can extend the prison term to up to 10 years. A felony conviction for marijuana possession is also punishable by as much as $5,000 in fines.
What Are Possible Defenses to a Drug Possession Charge?
If you were accused of or arrested on drug possession charges, you should discuss your case with an attorney. There may be several possible defenses available to you, depending on the circumstances of your case. If law enforcement found the drugs during an unlawful search and seizure, for instance, a court may dismiss the charges altogether.
Other possible defenses include:
- The drugs belong to another person
- The substance you possessed was not actually illegal
- Someone else planted the substance on you or your property
How an Atlanta Drug Possession Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one is facing a drug possession charge, contact an experienced Atlanta drug possession lawyer today. At Schnipper Law, we will examine all the facts, advise you of your options, and strongly defend your rights. Call (404) 545-5845 or contact us online today. An initial consultation with our firm is always free.