If you have been charged with a drug crime in the state of Georgia, the charges that come with severe penalties, ranging from steep fines to jail time. The severity of the penalty will depend on the nature of the crime, and the type of drug that is found in your possession. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is imperative that you have a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side who will protect your legal rights and recommend the most effective defense strategy that will result in the charges against you being reduced or dismissed.
What Are the Most Common Types of Drug Crimes?
Georgia has some of the strictest laws against drug possession and distribution in the country. When facing drug charges, it is important that you understand the type of drug crime that you have been charged with, as the penalty will vary based on the severity of the crime. The following are examples of the different types of drug crimes in Georgia:
- Drug use: If you were charged with drug use, it means that you were caught taking an illegal drug. You could also be charged with possession if you took a prescription drug like opioids, sedatives, or stimulants without a prescription.
- Drug possession: This is the most common type of drug offense. It occurs when you are in possession of a drug, but you do not have a valid prescription. There are two types of drug possession, including actual possession, which could be charged with if the drug is found on your person. The second type of drug possession is constructed possession, which occurs if you were in close enough proximity to a drug to possess it.
- Manufacturing: If you are involved in any step of the production of an illegal drug, including growing marijuana or manufacturing methamphetamines, you could face manufacturing charges. Repackaging a drug for resale is also illegal and may lead to manufacturing charges.
- Possession with the intent to distribute: This charge involves the sale, smuggling, and delivery of illegal drugs and substances. If you are caught with scales, syringes, pipes, rolling papers, packaging, and other materials that are generally used to profit from illegal drugs, a possession charge can escalate to an intent to sell, which comes with additional severe penalties. However, the arresting police officer must be able to prove that you were selling drugs, and that there was no other reasonable use for the materials found in your home.
- Drug trafficking: If you are facing a drug trafficking charge, this is one of the most serious drug crimes, and the penalties are severe. This charge usually involves the transportation of a significant amount of drugs, so if you are in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs, a police officer will likely assume that you plan to sell the drugs, which will result in a distribution charge. The officer does not have to prove that you intend to sell the drug in order to charge you with drug trafficking.
How Are Drugs Classified?
The type of drug that is found in your possession will affect the seriousness of the crime for which you are charged. Drugs are categorized into five different “schedules,” based on their potential for abuse. The following are the five drug schedules, and examples of drugs that fall into each category:
- Schedule I drugs and substances: These drugs have the highest potential for abuse, and they have no accepted medical use. They include drugs like heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin mushrooms, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy.
- Schedule II drugs and substances: These are also highly addictive, but they are accepted for medical use and treatment under certain circumstances. They include oxycodone, fentanyl, cocaine, methadone, hydromorphone, Adderall, and Ritalin.
- Schedule III drugs and substances: These are drugs that have an accepted medical use and have a low to moderate potential for dependence. They include drugs containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
- Schedule IV drugs and substances: These drugs have an accepted medical use and have a lower potential for abuse. They include drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Ambien, and Darvocet.
- Schedule V drugs and substances: These have an accepted medical use and have the lowest potential for abuse. They include cough medications with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters, like Robitussin AC, as well as Lyrican, Lomotil, and Parapectolin.
What Are the Penalties for Drug Crimes?
Drug crimes are taken seriously in the state of Georgia and the penalties for a drug-related conviction are severe. If you have been wrongly accused of a drug crime, it is imperative that you have a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side who can review the charges that have been brought against you and recommend the best legal course of action. In addition to steep fines, losing your driver’s license and the loss of financial aid, scholarships and other financial holdings, the following are the legal penalties you could face if convicted of a drug crime:
Penalties for Schedule I and II Substances
- If you have been charged with purchasing or possessing a Schedule I or II drug, and it is your first offense, penalties include imprisonment for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 15 years. Penalties for subsequent offenses include a prison term ranging from five year to a maximum of 30 years.
- If you sell, or intend to distribute Schedule I or II substances, the penalties for a first offense include a prison term of five to thirty years. For subsequent offenses, you could face a prison term of ten years to a life sentence.
Penalties for Schedule III, IV, and V Substances
- If you have been charged with purchasing or possessing a Schedule III, IV or V substance, and it is your first offense, the penalty includes a prison term of one to five years, and one to ten years for any subsequent charges.
- If you are charged with selling or intent to distribute Schedule III, IV or V substances, the penalties include a prison term of one to ten years.
What Are the Most Effective Defense Strategies for Drug Crimes?
If you have been charged with a drug crime, there are a number of defense strategies that are available, depending on the circumstances of the case. Your criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly review the charges and recommend the most effective defense strategy. The following are examples of common defense strategies that may result in the charges against you being reduced or dismissed:
- Unlawful search and seizure: This is one of the most common defenses used in drug possession cases. According to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement may only search a person’s body or property under certain circumstances. If the drugs are found through illegal means, including searching your vehicle’s trunk without permission, this may be an effective defense strategy.
- Entrapment: This occurs when a police officer forces a suspect to commit a crime that he or she would not otherwise have committed. While this can be an effective strategy if a police officer harassed or threatened you into committing a crime, law enforcement officials may set up sting operations to catch drug dealers or go undercover to buy or sell drugs to a suspect. A criminal defense lawyer will determine whether this is the best legal course of action based on the circumstances of your case.
- Chain of custody issues: If the drugs that have been seized during an arrest are missing from the evidence room or locker, your criminal defense lawyer may argue that the police officer did not handle the drugs properly during the course of the investigation.
- Faulty lab analysis: If there are any errors or inconsistencies in the crime lab analysis report, your criminal defense lawyer may require the crime lab analyst to testify at your trial. This line of defense can be used to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
- Drugs belong to someone else: Defendants who have been charged with a drug crime often claim that the drugs do not belong to them. This may or may not be an effective defense strategy because the prosecution only needs to show that you had control of or access to the drugs. Your criminal defense lawyer will determine whether this is a viable defense strategy.
Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Represent Clients Facing Drug Charges
If you have been charged with a drug crime, you are strongly urged to contact the Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated legal team will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected and that the charges against you are reduced or dropped. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. With our offices located in Springfield, Georgia, we proudly serve all clients of Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.