If you or someone you care about is facing drug charges, you need the guidance of an attorney with experience handling drug cases in the metro-Atlanta area. Regardless of the truth of the allegations, people who face criminal charges need legal guidance.
If you’ve been accused of a drug possession charge in Atlanta or surrounding areas of Georgia, contact ChancoSchiffer, P.C. to protect yourself after an arrest or drug charge. Our Atlanta attorneys have the experience to help you.
The most common drug-related charge worthy of an arrest in the United States is drug possession, or keeping any illicit drug on one’s person. While simple drug possession itself may not sound like much of a crime, the determining factors in sentencing typically includes the type of drug in possession, the quantity, and whether the defendant intended the drugs for personal use or distribution to others.
State laws also come into play in drug-possession charges. For example, some states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use while others still ban its possession, use, and sale. The punishments for drug possession and other drug-related crimes in Georgia are quite harsh. State laws apply to both illegal drugs and prescription medications.
The state of Georgia bases sentencing for drug possession on the type, or “schedule,” of drug involved.
A Schedule I drug is any drug with no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. While a Schedule V drug is one with accepted medical use, limited potential for abuse, and minimal risk for dependency. In Georgia, possessing any amount of any Schedule I or narcotic Schedule II drug is a felony, punishable by two to 15 years in state prison. Possession of non-narcotic Schedule II drugs leads to similar punishments. A subsequent conviction for Schedule I or Schedule II drug possession can result in up to 30 years in prison.
Possession of Schedule III through V drugs will lead to one to five years in prison, and subsequent convictions can lead to up to 10 years in prison. Georgia has specific laws in place for marijuana. Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $1,000 and one year in prison. Possession of one ounce or more would be classified as an intent to distribute and considered a felony, which entails fines up to $10,000 and prison sentences anywhere between one and 10 years.
Depending on the type of drugs involved in a case, a defendant may have one or several available defenses. The primary method of defense in most drug possession cases is challenging the methods with which the investigators collected evidence. If the defendant can prove the police or other investigator violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, the judge hearing the case may reduce or drop charges depending on the severity of the misconduct in play.
Other extenuating circumstances can complicate a drug possession case. For example, establishing clear possession is sometimes difficult for prosecutors. Imagine a person borrows a relative’s car and a police officer stops the driver for speeding. The police officer smells marijuana and searches the car to find marijuana in the glove box.
The driver was borrowing the car and did not know the drugs were in the glove box, so who is responsible for the possession charge? In other cases, a police officer or other investigator mistaking a particular substance for illegal drugs can also lead to dropped charges. The defendant may move to challenge the results of a lab test performed on the evidence in question to pursue this type of defense.
Georgia has some of the harshest penalties for drug offenders in the country. Possession of any amount of Schedule I and II illegal substances can lead to up to 15 years in prison—even for a first offense—and subsequent offenses will increase these penalties.
Possession with intent to sell can lead to significant fines and jail time, depending on the type of drug involved, the quantity, and the defendant’s past convictions. Georgia state law classifies any possession of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances as a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Possession of Schedule III, IV, or V substances could lead to up to 10 years in prison.
In most cases, police and criminal investigators will classify a possession arrest as possession with the intent to sell if the suspect has a past history of selling drugs, had paraphernalia present at the arrest—such as scales, baggies, or syringes to suggest portioning for sale—or was caught with multiple small doses of a drug that appear portioned for individual use.
For example, an individual caught with a half-ounce of marijuana in a single bag may be able to argue the drugs were for personal use, but a person caught with the same amount divided into smaller individual baggies would likely face a charge of possession with intent to sell.
While difficult, it’s possible to argue against a charge of possession with intent to sell. It’s imperative to work closely with a reliable criminal defense attorney to quickly build a strong defense against these charges.
One of the most common defenses against drug possession charges is a misappropriation of evidence. The police and other investigators can only submit evidence obtained through legal means, so the defense can argue that the prosecution did not obtain their evidence legally. This would include any violation of the defendant’s constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure.
The defense may also compel the prosecution to produce the drugs seized from the defendant. Evidence may go through several exchanges before being submitted into an active trial, so no one should ever assume the drugs in question in a case even exist without proof. If the prosecution cannot locate and produce the drugs in question, it will significantly weaken its position before a judge.
Another common defense is for the defendant to simply explain that he or she did not commit the act in question. For example, a police officer stops a driver and smells marijuana in the car. The driver borrowed the car from his or her roommate and did not know about the marijuana at all. In this case, the defense would pressure the prosecution to prove that the drugs belonged to the arrested driver and not someone else.
It is vital to remember that the burden of proof rests on the accuser, not the defendant. The defense does not need to prove the defendant is innocent; the prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ultimately, the best thing anyone can do when facing a drug possession with intent to sell criminal charge is to seek the advice of criminal defense attorney. The right attorney can poke holes at a prosecutor’s case and cast doubt on submitted evidence to argue for lighter sentencing and/or dropped charges.
Contact the office of ChancoSchiffer P.C. today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team. We’ll review the charges against you and explain how our firm can help.