Drug offenses are not taken lightly in Georgia. There is a long history of being “tough on drugs” since the 1980s. There are police units that are specifically dedicated to catching people in possession or distributing illegal. Many of legal experts, like us here at Bixon Law, are fighting for a reduction in sentencing for non-violent drug crimes. Sentences for non violent drug crimes are often harsher than many of violent crimes. Yet still, in Georgia most drug crimes are still felonies and have mandatory sentences. In this article, we will discuss the three-major drug related charges:
- 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)
Possession of a Controlled Substance (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30(a))
Georgia Criminal Code states, “It is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his control any controlled substance.” This means that it is illegal to be caught with a controlled substance in your control. But what does in your control mean? In control does not mean you need to actually have the illegal drugs in your hand or in your pockets. The drug can be in your car, in your home, or just within your reach. King v. State, 325 Ga. App. 777, 755 S.E.2d 22 (2014), Evans v. State, 330 Ga. App. 241, 766 S.E.2d 821 (2014).
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. Also, possessing any amount of controlled substances within a school zone will significantly increase sentencing.
If found guilty of possession of a schedule I or II drug, he or she shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two years nor more than 15 years. Upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense, he shall be imprisoned for not less than five years nor more than 30 years.
Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30)
Possession with intent to distribute is also under the same Georgia Criminal Code as possession. However, possession with intent to distribute differs because you must intend to distribute drugs. O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30(b) states, “it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, sell, or possess with intent to distribute any controlled substance.” Well, how will the State prove intent? Intent is usually shown through the presence of a scale, plastic bags, or large quantities of unclaimed cash, can increase a possession charge to a distribution charge. Neugent v. State, 294 Ga. App. 284, 668 S.E.2d 888 (2008), Hamilton v. State, 293 Ga. App. 297, 666 S.E.2d 630 (2008).
Possession with intent is definitely a felony. If found guilty he or she will be sentenced to not less than five years nor more than 30 years. Upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense, he or she shall be imprisoned for not less than ten years nor more than 40 years or life imprisonment.
Drug Trafficking (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31)
Drug trafficking is considered the most serious drug charge for its harsh sentencing guidelines. Drug Trafficking combines the drug possession and drug possession with the intent to distribute into one big crime with high mandatory minimum sentencing. Drug trafficking can be brought against any person who knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or who is knowingly in possession of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, opium, morphine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, or other illegal drugs. O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31(a)-(h). Jones v. State, 339 Ga. App. 95, 791 S.E.2d 625 (2016), Reyes v. State, 322 Ga. App. 496, 745 S.E.2d 738 (2013), Crenshaw v. State, 183 Ga. App. 527, 359 S.E.2d 419 (1987).
Depending on the specific drug in question, the State has varying weights and amounts associated with trafficking charges. For instance, 28 grams of cocaine will carry a lower mandatory minimum sentence than 28 grams of heroin. 28 grams of Cocaine has a mandatory sentencing of 10 years, whereas 28 grams of heroin has a mandatory sentencing of 25 years.
Charged with a trafficking offense?
Whatever your drug charge may be, you can expect no leniency, vigorous prosecution and, often, minimum mandatory terms of imprisonment. If you have been charged with drug charges then you will greatly benefit from the legal assistance of Bixon Law, LLC. We are a criminal defense law firm that is dedicated to serving those who have been accused of criminal activities. We will be able to answer your questions regarding your case, discuss your options with you, advise you of the best legal action for you to take and provide you with aggressive representation of your case in court if you choose to work with us. Please feel free to give us a call at any time at 404-551-5684.