Georgia Drug Possession Laws: A Comprehensive Overview
Understanding Georgia Drug Possession Laws
The Georgia Controlled Substances Act bans the possession of substances that are considered addictive or dangerous. Under Georgia drug possession laws, as in many other states, the substances are divided into drug “schedules,” which correspond to the level of danger that use entails as well as whether the drug has any generally accepted medical use.
Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest potential for abuse or dependence and generally lack an accepted medical use. As a result, a possession charge for a Schedule I drug will generally carry the most severe consequences. In Georgia, Schedule I includes heroin, LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and MDMA (ecstasy).
Under United States federal drug law, marijuana is also classified as a Schedule I drug. In Georgia, however, marijuana possession is treated differently. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor offense. However, if an individual possesses more than one ounce of marijuana they may be charged with an “intent to distribute” crime, which is a felony offense. Conviction of felony possession of marijuana in Georgia can lead to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction for possession can entail even more severe penalties.
Schedule II drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse or dependence but also generally have some accepted medical use. Schedule II in Georgia includes cocaine (as well as crack cocaine), methamphetamine, morphine, hydrocodone, opium, oxycodone, ketamine, and fentanyl.
A conviction for possession of a Schedule I or II drug can carry a sentence of between 2 and 15 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction can result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
If you are convicted of possession of Schedule III, IV, or V substances, you could face a sentence of between 1 and 5 years of prison. A second or subsequent conviction can carry a sentence of between 1 and 10 years in prison.
Schedule III drugs are considered to have a lower potential for abuse or dependence and have some generally accepted medical uses. Georgia’s Schedule III includes anabolic steroids, certain barbiturates, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, and mixtures containing other narcotics, among other things.
Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse or dependence and have generally accepted medical uses. Georgia’s Schedule IV includes clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (valium), zolpidem (Ambien), and alprazolam (Xanax).
Finally, Schedule V drugs have a low potential for abuse or dependence and have accepted medical uses. Schedule V includes various mixtures containing limited amounts of drugs from other schedules.
Although some of the drug schedules include prescription drugs, if you have a prescription from a doctor you cannot be charged with drug possession.
How Drug Possession Laws in Georgia May Apply to Your Case
Drug possession laws in Georgia can be complex. For example, a police officer doesn’t need to catch you with drugs in your hand in order to charge you with a violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. Rather, you could be charged and convicted of drug possession if the substances are found in your home or car and can be deemed to have been under your control.
Georgia courts have held that as long as there is even slight evidence of access to or power over the controlled substance, the question of possession is left to the jury. Davenport v. State, Ga. App. 140 (2011). This is just one of many reasons that it is important to hire a top-rated criminal defense law firm like The Waltman Firm that understands the Georgia Code and can offer you the best chance of having your drug charges dismissed.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated Drug Possession Laws
Georgia’s legal code is known as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (abbreviated as O.C.G.A.) Under the O.C.G.A., various factors can affect the sentence that you may receive for violating the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
For example, the total weight of the drugs in your possession can influence the sentence you ultimately receive both because of the amount in and of itself and because the jury may infer that you intended to sell or distribute the drugs to others. In addition, the presence of items such as baggies or petty cash may lead to the inference that you intended to use the substances in your possession for eventual distribution.
Generally, the conviction of an intent to distribute crime carries harsher penalties than simple possession under Georgia’s drug laws. Finally, if you have previously been convicted of a drug crime, a subsequent conviction will likely carry harsher penalties. However, while some drug crimes carry more significant penalties than others, each possession charge should be treated equally seriously. Any criminal conviction can have serious repercussions on your life, so you need a reputable criminal defense lawyer fighting for your rights.
Additional Possession of Controlled Substance Penalties
In Georgia, a first conviction for a violation of drug possession laws results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for six months. A second conviction leads to the suspension of driving privileges for a full year. Further convictions can result in longer suspensions or even the permanent revocation of your driving privileges in Georgia.
If you are convicted of possession of a controlled substance and this is your first offense, you may be eligible for a “conditional discharge.” A conditional discharge requires that you admit to possession of the controlled substance.
Next, the court will sentence you to a period of probation. If you are able to complete your probationary period without violating any of its terms, the charges will be dropped and you will not have a conviction or guilty plea on your criminal record. It is important to know that a conditional discharge for a first offense drug charge can still be considered a conviction for immigration purposes. To learn more about how these laws might apply to your case, we invite you to contact The Waltman Firm today.
Contact Our Law Firm for More Info on Georgia Controlled Substance Laws
If you or someone you love is facing drug charges for Georgia possession, you may feel lost, scared, or confused. Thankfully, you have options, and you are not alone.
Georgia laws relating to the possession of controlled substances can be complex, so you must have a defense attorney on your side who understands the ins and outs of Georgia drug laws.
A conviction for drug possession can hinder your ability to find employment, housing, and even to qualify for certain types of loans, including student loans. Moreover, many employers view conviction for a drug crime as grounds for automatic termination.
Because the stakes are so high, selecting the right law firm to fight your case could be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Contact us today and begin moving forward.