By: William C. Head, Partner in the Atlanta Law Firm with 3 Lawyers for Drug Charges
Some of what you are about to read about Georgia drug possession offenses is GOOD, and some is FRIGHTENING, like having a criminal record that may end many job opportunities. For example, up to 20 years in state prison is possible if convicted of certain felony drug convictions in Georgia courts. Therefore, your search for the best lawyers for drug charges is critical.
Additionally, navigating the criminal justice system for manufacturing, trafficking or selling methamphetamine, cocaine or marijuana (in large amounts) usually means NO BAIL or bail set so high that you cannot obtain a bondsman. Just reading the “definitions” page of the Georgia Code tells you how broadly the Georgia drug laws are worded, to cover ANY conduct associated with the drug trade. O.C.G.A. 16-13-21.
On a positive note, every year that passes, our criminal attorneys see improvements in the number of drug court participants who have success stories. Another negative about the scope of assumed culpability is that the legal theory of constructive possession of drugs (usually inside a motor vehicle) can leave you facing drug charges. Conviction of possession of illicit drugs found in automobile of which defendant was not sole occupant, 57 A.L.R.3d 1319. So, if illegal drugs are found within your car, SUV, or truck, the law assumes that you knew the drugs were there and in your possession.
Certainly, an unrepresented person should never plead guilty. Our laws permit the assignment of a public defender or appointed drug crime attorney for all crimes, felony or misdemeanor, including traffic offenses.
Take advantage of that protection of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For anyone in America who is not a full-fledged citizen, this advice is an absolute imperative.
A drug offense in Georgia can be a felony or a misdemeanor. Most drug offenses, however, are categorized as felonies. The type of drug (e.g., LSD, PCP, cocaine) includes some that are illegal to possess for all purposes, while other drugs (e.g., amphetamine) are a legitimate, therapeutic component of some prescribed medications. Because the wording of drug laws in Georgia is very precise, it is helpful to be able to READ the exact language of each of the usual statutory drug provisions in the Georgia Code, which includes these topics for your perusal. The life-changing punishment for possession with intent to distribute is far different from simple possession of a small amount of weed.
Federal laws and state laws overlap and have different thresholds regarding various “levels” of potential monetary punishment and prison consequences. This page focuses entirely on the State of Georgia drug laws and other associated laws, not federal laws.
Metropolitan areas account for most drug law violations in America, and the metro Atlanta area is “ground zero” for the Peach State. Most drug violations occur here in part due to the confluence of interstate highways and transportation methods. Plus, when people live close to each other, this proximity creates a far greater chance of detection for certain crimes (e.g., possession of marijuana, due to the pungent odor) in places like condominiums and apartments.
While nearby bedroom communities in Forsyth County, Cherokee County, Clayton County, and Douglas County have seen a large increase in certain drug crime activity, the central Atlanta GA counties (Fulton County, Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, and Cobb County) are where the high-volume Georgia drug courts are in operation.
Under progressive new laws encouraged and pushed by former Governor Nathan Deal, accountability courts have proliferated. These include veterans courts, mental health court, adult drug court, DUI court, and a multitude of treatment programs to help addicts get their lives back. Plus, for drug-related criminal activity (which can include property crimes like theft to help buy more drugs), a special conditional discharge GA law may be available for first-time offenders, which is NOT available in most U.S. states.
Sorting through statutes under the Georgia Code, three things will stand out as you try to see how one drug-related crime differs from your criminal charge:
- The small AMOUNT of the drug being possessed may be the difference between being charged with a felony vs. misdemeanor, but typically only with the most common contraband substances, marijuana and cocaine.
- Remembering QUANTITY (above) as the next factor, is the WAY the drug is allegedly possessed. The drugs can allegedly be possessed in a grow house for weed, a meth lab like in Breaking Bad, or a large stash of drugs, or possession of which has evidence of trafficking. With large quantities, “intent to distribute” is presumed.
- Our lawyers near me may be able to obtain a case resolution using special types of ALTERNATIVE CRIMINAL CASE DISPOSITIONS, offering alternative punishment packages for those who are truly first-time offenders. This aspect of drug charges is most important because the jail time for a conviction of Georgia’s toughest drug laws is from diversion and total expungement to 20 years in a Georgia state prison. Having the right drug defense lawyers is critically important.
Convictions of a drug charge carry substantial criminal penalties. For a few offenders, completing programs offered in special accountability courts MAY be an option. But, all state laws in Georgia include being sentenced (after trial) to a jail sentence or state prison stint, and monetary fines, unless the offender and case facts justify a court permitting an alternative solution such as:
- Conditional Release
- Conditional Discharge
- Drug Court
- Veterans Court
- DUI Court
- Mental Health Court
- Youthful Offender
Without question, a person with a first offense stands the best chance for a plea alternative being allowed. Being convicted of a drug offense in Georgia can end jobs, marriages, and future employment opportunities.
To avoid conviction of a crime, you need an experienced criminal attorney near me with a reputation for fighting cases. He or she can outline the elements of the offense or offenses you face so that you can see how to assert one or more criminal defenses to the charges. Every case is different, but (depending on your facts) your criminal defense attorney Atlanta may be able to utilize one of several types of defenses including: alibi, entrapment, duress, equal access, lack of fingerprints on baggies or paraphernalia, necessity, insanity, and person of diminished responsibility being a mule or runner.
You already know how serious a crime involving drugs can be. News stories, movies, and hearing (through the grapevine) about your “friends” going away to prison can give you an excellent frame of reference. For YOUR drug case, be smart and get legal advice early. Remember that ANYONE other than your spouse and DRUG ATTORNEY can be called as a witness against you in your criminal case. DON’T talk about your “situation” with anyone except criminal lawyers.
A partner in our law firm, ex-police officer Cory Yager says that “the time is now to start preparing your defense!” Often, once becoming aware that they may be indicted or arrested, people fail to talk to a drug charge lawyer RIGHT THEN, to protect against unintended self-incrimination.
Veteran criminal law specialist Larry Kohn notes that accused citizens often “freeze” and rely on a HOPE that they will “dodge the bullet,” so to speak. The truth is that once you have been targeted for a drug charge arrest, police are just laying back, to see if you (and your cell phone) lead them to new arrest “targets.” Do NOT talk to the police. Caution: All jail phone calls between a prisoner and ANYONE but a drug defense attorney are being taped and will be used against the person incarcerated.
Why not tap into our law firm’s 73 CUMULATIVE years of criminal law experience, the vast majority of which has involved alcohol or other drugs. Our law office offers a FREE IN-PERSON lawyer consultation.
Our drug crime attorneys return calls 24-7, so call us NOW at 404-567-5515. The call is FREE, the legal advice is FREE, and the drug lawyer consultation is FREE. What do you have to lose?