In Atlanta, a drug crime includes possessing, distributing, or manufacturing controlled substances. The federal government and the state of Georgia dedicate a significant amount of time and money to investigating and prosecuting defendants for drug crimes. Georgia law enforcement charges drug crimes as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the specific drug crime. Depending on the crime, defendants convicted of drug crimes can face years or even decades in jail.
At Carter/Pilgrim, our Atlanta criminal defense lawyers have helped many clients successfully resolve their legal issues. We see our clients as individuals and take the time to thoroughly investigate our clients’ cases so we can offer a winning legal defense. The more time we have to prepare a legal defense strategy, the better. Contact Carter/Pilgrim as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation today.
Understanding Georgia’s Drug Schedule
The Georgia Controlled Substances Act (GCSA) regulates drug crimes. The law lists five different schedules, or categories, of controlled substances. Schedule I drugs are the most serious and dangerous drugs and Schedule V drugs are the least likely to be abused.
Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use. Drug crimes involving Schedule I drugs come with the most severe penalties. Schedule 1 drugs include the following:
- Synthetic marijuana
- Psilocybin (mushrooms)
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
Schedule II drugs have a relatively high potential for abuse. Unlike Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs have some accepted medical use. Schedule II drugs include the following:
Schedule III drugs are considered to have some accepted medical use. They may lead to low or moderate physical dependence and they are less addictive than Schedule I and II drugs. Schedule III drugs include the following:
- Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants
- CNS stimulants
- Anabolic steroids
- Some types of barbiturates
- Mixtures or substances containing limited amounts of narcotics
Schedule IV drugs have a low potential abuse and have a limited amount of accepted medical uses. The use of Schedule IV drugs leads to limited psychological and physical dependence when abused. Schedule IV drugs include the following:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Diazepam (Valium)
Schedule V drugs have the least potential for abuse. They have some accepted medical use, but they lead to limited psychological and physical dependence if abused. Schedule V drugs include mixtures or substances that have limited amounts of narcotics. Under Georgia law, certain non-narcotic substances are allowed in drug stores to purchase over-the-counter without a prescription.
Marijuana Drug Crimes
Despite several states legalizing recreational marijuana, the possession of marijuana is still a crime in Georgia. Federal laws classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, but Georgia law takes another approach. Under Georgia law, marijuana possession is different from possession of other Schedule 1 drugs.
Simple possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is only a misdemeanor in Georgia. When someone has removed the THC from the marijuana, prosecutors can bring felony possession charges of a Schedule 1 substance, however. Defendants convicted of possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana face up to 10 years in jail with a 1-year mandatory jail sentence. They also face fines of up to $5,000.
Penalties for Simple Possession Drug Charges
In Georgia, possession of even a small amount of a controlled substance can lead to serious penalties. The penalties depend on the Schedule of the drug. Georgia courts will suspend the driver’s license of a defendant convicted of drug possession. A first-time conviction comes with a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. Those who are convicted of a second drug possession charge will lose their license for two years. Third drug possession convictions result in a suspended license for two years.
Possession of any Schedule I drug, or any Schedule II narcotic is punishable with 2 to 15 years of jail time. Subsequent drug possession convictions are punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Possession of a non-narcotic Schedule II drug is punishable with 5-30 years in prison. Those defendants convicted of possession of Schedule III, IV, or V drugs face 1-10 years in prison.
Georgia Drug Trafficking Crimes
Drug trafficking is a more serious charge than drug possession in Georgia. Under Georgia law, drug trafficking happens when someone possesses, sells, distributes or manufactures a large amount of illegal controlled substances. The penalties for drug trafficking charges depend on the quantity or amount of drugs involved in the alleged crime.
Drug trafficking charges come with serious mandatory minimum prison sentences. The length of the mandatory prison sentences increases as the amount of drugs increases. For example, If you’re charged with selling, manufacturing, or delivering, or knowingly possession between 28 to 200 grams of cocaine, you will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. If you’re charged with drug trafficking of 400 or more grams of cocaine, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in jail.
Defenses to Georgia Drug Crimes Charges
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation trains police officers to identify marijuana. They have also changed their marijuana testing process, and, as a result, more false positives have occurred. Additionally, sometimes canine K-9 dog handlers offer their dogs cues to try to make them alert.
At Carter/Pilgrim, we keep up-to-date on the tactics law enforcement uses to make marijuana charges. Whether the test was faulty or law enforcement engaged in an unlawful search and seizure, we will investigate your case thoroughly. We will create a compelling defense tailored to the evidence we discover. Our experienced lawyers can explain the ins and outs of the Atlanta criminal process.
Contact Our Atlanta Drug Crimes Lawyers Today
If you’re facing an Atlanta drug charge, we can help. Contact Carter/Pilgrim today to schedule your initial consultation. Depending on your goals, we can advise you as to whether a plea bargain might be your best option. When possible, we fight to ask the court to dismiss your charges altogether. Should your case proceed to trial, our trial-ready lawyers are prepared to fight for you throughout the litigation process.