Drug crimes are taken very seriously in the state of Georgia. In fact, the state’s drug possession and distribution laws are among the strictest in the country. There are many different types of drug crimes, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The penalties will range in severity based on the nature of the offense and the type of drug that was used.
If you have been charged with possession, distribution, trafficking, or any other type of drug crime, you are urged to contact a seasoned attorney experienced in criminal law. We will review the charges against you and develop an aggressive defense strategy that protects your legal rights to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
What are the Different Types of Drug Crimes?
Drug crimes are generally those that involve the use, possession, or distribution of illegal or illicit drugs. They include the following:
- Drug use: Taking an illegal drug, such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines, is a crime. It is also illegal to take prescription drugs without the required prescription.
- Drug possession: This is the most common offense and often occurs when an individual is in possession of a drug without a valid prescription. There are two types of possession, including actual possession, which is when the person actually has the drug on their person, and constructed possession, which is when an individual is in close enough proximity to the drug to possess it. The penalties for drug possession will depend on the type and amount of the drug being used and whether the individual is using the drug for personal use or for sale and distribution.
- Manufacturing: This often involves “cooking” a synthetic material, such as methamphetamines, growing marijuana, or any step of the production process of an illegal drug. Packaging a drug for resale may also count as illegal manufacturing.
- Possession with the intent to distribute: This involves the sale, smuggling, and delivery of illegal drugs and substances. A possession charge can escalate to an intent to sell if there are scales, packaging, or other materials that are used to profit from the drugs. Although a police officer can charge you with intent to sell at their discretion, to be convicted, the judge or jury must agree that the officer was justified in assuming you were selling drugs and that there are no other reasonable uses for the paraphernalia that was found with the drugs.
- Drug trafficking: This is one of the most serious drug crimes. A drug trafficking charge generally involves the transportation of a large amount of drugs. The weight requirements and penalties vary from drug to drug, but the penalties are severe. If you possess a large quantity of illegal drugs, police may assume that you intend to sell the narcotics and charge you with distribution. In addition, a drug trafficking charge does not require proof that you intend to sell the drug. If convicted, the sentence can range from three years to life in prison.
What are Examples of Illegal Drugs?
Certain drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP), are illegal to use, distribute, or sell under any circumstances. In fact, if you are in possession of less than 28 grams of cocaine, you will likely face a felony charge and spend up to 15 years in jail. Possession of less than 2 grams of heroin can result in a prison sentence of up to three years and up to eight years if you are in possession of up 2 to 4 grams of heroin.
If you are in possession of over 4 grams of heroin, Georgia law considers this amount to be drug trafficking, which results in far greater penalties. However, even prescription medications, such as Vicodin, codeine, or Adderall, are illegal if you use the drug without a prescription from a doctor or if you try to sell the drug to someone else. Although the limited use of cannabis oil containing less than five percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been decriminalized in some cities in Georgia, marijuana is illegal for recreational use.
These and other prescription drugs have been classified into five schedules based on their medicinal properties, potential for abuse, safety to the public, and the likelihood for dependency. They include both legal and illegal drugs:
- Schedule I drugs and substances: In addition to having no medical use, these drugs have a high potential for abuse and dependency. Heroin, LSD, and ecstasy are included in this group. Marijuana is also included, despite studies that find it to have medical uses.
- Schedule II drugs and substances: Although these have a lesser potential for abuse than Schedule I drugs and may have some accepted medical uses, users can still develop physical and psychological dependencies. These include drugs such as Vicodin, cocaine, and oxycontin.
- Schedule III drugs and substances: These have lesser potential for abuse and physical and psychological dependence than Schedule II drugs, and they may have some medical uses, but they are still considered dangerous compared with Schedule IV and V drugs and substances. They include codeine, anabolic steroids, ketamine, and testosterone.
- Schedule IV drugs and substances: These have a relatively low risk for abuse compared with Schedules I to III drugs. In addition, they have an accepted medical use. Examples include Valium, Ambien, and Xanax.
- Schedule V drugs and substances: These have a low risk for physical or psychological dependence and the lowest potential for abuse compared with the other groups. They contain only limited amounts of narcotics. Cough medicine and Lyrica are examples of schedule V drugs.
How are Drugs Regulated?
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is a federal statute that regulates the manufacture and distribution of controlled substances. The CSA is responsible for categorizing drugs into the five schedules. The CSA requires manufacturers, distributors, and dispensers to have the appropriate labeling, packaging, record keeping, and other safeguards in place to prevent the unlawful diversion of a controlled substance.
In addition, the CSA makes it illegal to possess or distribute a controlled substance without the proper authorization. The imposed penalties will be based on the type and amount of the substance found and whether there was an intent to sell or use the drugs personally.
What are the Penalties for a Drug Crime?
The penalties for drug crimes in Georgia can be quite severe, including steep fines and lengthy prison sentences. The severity of the penalty will depend on a number of factors, including the type of drug and the nature of the crime. The following are examples of penalties you could face if convicted of a drug crime.
Possession of Drugs
- Marijuana: If you are in possession of less than 1 ounce, you will likely face a misdemeanor charge of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year of community service. If you are in possession of 1 or more ounces of marijuana, you may face a prison sentence ranging from one to 10 years.
- Cocaine: Possession of less than 28 grams of cocaine can result in a felony charge, resulting in anywhere between two to 15 years in jail. Subsequent charges of cocaine possession can result in a prison sentence of five to 30 years.
- Heroin: Possession of less than 2 grams of heroin may result in a prison sentence of one to three years, and one to eight years if you were in possession of between 2 and 4 grams of heroin. If you were in possession of more than 4 grams of heroin, that is automatically considered drug trafficking, which will result in more severe criminal penalties.
Intent to Distribute Drugs
These are more serious crimes that come with more severe penalties:
- Marijuana: Distributing marijuana has a minimum prison sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 10 years.
- Cocaine: Distributing cocaine has a minimum prison sentence of five years, and 10 years if it is a second offense. The maximum sentence is 30 years in prison or 40 years to life for a second offense.
- Heroin: The distribution of heroin has a minimum penalty of five years in prison or 10 years for a second offense. The maximum penalty of 30 years or 40 years to life for a second offense.
These are considered some of the most serious drug crimes, so they have particularly severe penalties.
- Marijuana: The penalty for trafficking the lowest weight requirement has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The penalty for trafficking the highest weight requirement is 15 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
- Cocaine: Trafficking the lowest weight requirement of cocaine has a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $220,000. The penalty for the highest weight requirement of cocaine is 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.
- Heroin: The penalty for trafficking the lowest weight requirement of heroin is a minimum of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Trafficking the highest required amount of heroin has a mandatory penalty of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
In addition to a prison sentence, you could lose your driver’s license for a minimum of six months for a first offense. If it is a second offense, you may lose your license for one year and up to two years for a third offense. A possession conviction may also cause you to lose financial aid and scholarships, as well as personal property and other financial holdings. You may also have to pay steep fines that can range from $1,000 for a misdemeanor to $100,000 or more for a felony.
If it is a first offense, you may be able to avoid prison time. However, if you were charged with trafficking drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamines, or heroin, the penalties will likely be more severe. Depending on the type and quantity of the drug, you could face a minimum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. Selling or distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school also has very harsh penalties.
What Happens if I am Arrested for a Drug Crime?
Depending on the type and amount of the drug involved in the crime, the case will be seen either in the municipal court or the superior court. Minor drug crimes, including those that involve possession of a small quantity of a drug, are seen in the municipal court. Serious drug charges, including cases involving large quantities of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, are considered a felony offense. The superior courts have jurisdiction over these cases.
There are a number of actions that may occur if you are arrested for a drug crime. Your fingerprints will be taken and added to a national database. A record will be created on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. In most cases, an arrest stays on your criminal record permanently. However, it may be possible for the arrest record to be restricted if your lawyer can affect the disposition of the case.
Having an arrest record restricted does not mean that the record will be erased. However, it does mean that it will be restricted from people outside the court system and law enforcement. For example, a restricted record cannot be seen by employers, schools, and any organization or individual that is not connected to law enforcement.
What are the Best Defenses to Drug Crimes?
If you have been charged with a serious drug crime, you need an aggressive legal team who will work tirelessly to protect your rights and ensure that the charges against you are reduced or dismissed. There are a number of defense strategies that can be used depending on the circumstances of the case. The following are examples of possible defense strategies that an experienced lawyer may use to defend a client charged with a drug crime:
- Arguing that the drugs belong to someone else.
- Claiming that the drugs were found after an illegal search.
- Demonstrating that the accused is the victim of police entrapment.
- Holding the prosecution responsible for proving that the alleged substance is actually an illegal drug.
Savannah Drug Crime Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Build Strong Strategies for Those Charged With Drug Crimes
If you are facing a serious drug charge, it is in your best interest to contact one of our Savannah drug crime lawyers at Kicklighter Law as soon as possible. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of your case, explore all possible defense options, and proceed with the best defense strategy. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. We are located in Springfield, Georgia, and we proudly serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.