In the State of Georgia, drug laws are notoriously strict in comparison to many other states. The vast majority of drug charges are felony offenses, and there are many factors that increase the severity of the charges being brought against the accused.
The three most common drug-related charges are:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30)
- Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30)
- Drug Trafficking (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31)
Understanding the difference between these three drug offenses in Georgia is essential if you are facing drug-related charges.
Possession of a Controlled Substance in Georgia
Drug possession refers to being caught by law enforcement with a controlled substance in your control. This means that a person does not have to be physically holding the drugs to be charged; he or she may simply have the drugs within reach or inside a home or vehicle.
Possession charges in Georgia can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the details of the arrest. For example, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is most often a misdemeanor, but any amount of cocaine is a felony. Additionally, possessing any amount of controlled substances within a school zone will significantly increase sentencing.
Drug possession penalties can range from suspension of a driver’s license and probation for a minor first offense to substantial prison time and fines.
Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance in Georgia
If law enforcement finds that a person has more drugs in his or her possession than what is reasonable for an individual’s recreational use, he or she can be charged with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Additionally, other factors, such as the presence of a scale, plastic bags, or large quantities of unclaimed cash, can increase a possession charge to a distribution charge.
Charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance are felony offences in Georgia. Depending on the classification of the drugs and many other factors, the accused may be facing prison time ranging from one year to 40 years and thousands of dollars in fines.
Drug Trafficking in Georgia
Drug trafficking charges can be brought against a person who brings a certain amount of drugs across state lines or from another country. Depending on the specific drug in question, the State has varying weights and amounts associated with trafficking charges. This means 28 grams of cocaine will carry a lower sentence than 28 grams of heroin. Additionally, the laws often take the purity of the drugs into account.
Drug trafficking is arguably the most serious non-violent drug charge a person can face. For the larger quantities of controlled substances, drug trafficking charges carry a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and fines up to one million dollars. Even for smaller quantities, minimum prison sentences are often set at 10 years or more.
Expert Legal Representation for Drug-Related Charges
When facing drug-related charges in Georgia, it is essential to have legal representation you can trust.
At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.