McLeod Law Firm, P.C. has been committed to defending those accused of drug crimes throughout North Georgia. Our experienced founding attorney, David McLeod, has handled drug cases including simple possession, possession with intent, manufacturing, cultivation and conspiracy. For more than two decades, McLeod Law Firm, P.C. has successfully defended clients charged with serious misdemeanor and felony drug charges. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be facing state or federal charges or both. Federal and Georgia prosecutors take drug offenses very seriously so it is important that you promptly contact an experienced Georgia drug crimes attorney. If you have been arrested for a drug offense, McLeod Law Firm, P.C. will carefully investigate the facts and evidence so that we can craft the best legal defense.
Georgia law makes it illegal to purchase, possess, sell or manufacture any controlled substances. These include marijuana, methamphetamines, barbiturates, heroin, PCP, hallucinogens, among many others found in the Controlled Substances Act, O.C.G.A. 16-13-25 through 16-13-29. The law classifies controlled substances into five categories depending upon their addictive qualities, medicinal value, and ability to harm. A Schedule 1 drug such as heroin or LSD will carry a more severe sentence than a drug included under Schedules II to V.
A person may be presumed to possess a controlled substance if it is found in their vehicle or on property owned by the individual or if a police officer observes the individual discarding or hiding the drug.
Selling, distributing, or possessing a controlled substance with the intent to sell are more serious offenses than simple possession and the penalties depend upon the type and amount of the drug that a person sells or attempts to sell. It is also illegal to sell any substance the defendant represents as a controlled substance even if it is not a drug.
Drug trafficking is the introduction of narcotics into a state by use of an airplane, automobile or other type of transportation. These are federal as well as state crimes. Federal prosecutors are typically more skilled and have more available resources so having an experienced criminal defense attorney is even more imperative if you are facing federal drug charges.
Other drug crimes include manufacturing narcotics or keeping a drug house from which narcotics are sold as well as conspiracy to commit a drug crime.
All of these offenses are considered felonies and carry jail sentences that exceed one year, except for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, which is a misdemeanor.
Elements of Georgia Drug Crimes
Like any criminal offense the prosecution or state must prove each element of a drug offense “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Possession: A prosecutor must prove the following elements to obtain a conviction for possession of a controlled substance:
- You are in possession of the drug or have it under your control. This includes any area over which you had or intended to have control, such as your car’s glove compartment or your dresser drawer.
- The drug is included under the federal or state’s Controlled Substances Act. A crime lab will determine this by a standardized test.
Intent to Sell: To convict for intent to sell a controlled substance, the prosecution must prove the following:
- You were in possession of a controlled substance.
- The drug is in fact a controlled substance.
- You intended to sell or deliver it to someone.
The prosecution will also look at the quantity of the drug under a person’s control. A large quantity will be presumed not to be solely for personal use, and the presence of a large amount of paraphernalia, such as scales and packages or weapons will also be used to establish that the drugs were not for personal use.
Conspiracy: A conspiracy is an agreement between at least two people to commit a crime, regardless of whether the underlying crime is actually committed. To prove conspiracy, the state must prove three elements:
- There was an agreement to violate a drug crime, such as an intent to distribute or sell narcotics.
- Each alleged conspirator knew of and intended to join the conspiracy.
- There must have been at least one act done in furtherance of the conspiracy, such as a phone call to obtain the drugs or renting a vehicle or airplane to transport the drugs.
Georgia Drug Offense Penalties and Sentences
A first-time offender of Georgia’s drug possession law can result in a conditional discharge, meaning that you may be placed on probation with the charge being dismissed after a period of time if no other offenses are committed within that time.
Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana may subject you to a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in state prison, but first-time offenders are eligible for a deferred sentence. Possession of more than one ounce can result in 1-10 years in prison.
First time possession of Schedule I and II drugs: 2-15 years incarceration and fines. Subsequent offenses may result in a prison sentence of 5-30 years and fines.
First time possession of Schedule 3, 4 and 5 narcotics: 1-5 years in prison and fines with subsequent offenses resulting in a state prison sentence of 1-10 years and fines.
Those convicted of possession also face driver’s license suspensions of 6 months for a first offense, one year for a second offense, and at least two years for a third or subsequent conviction.
Sale or Intent to Sell
A conviction of a first offense for sale or intent to sell a schedule I or II substances will result in imprisonment of 5-10 years. A second offense subjects the offender to 10-40 years or life.
Second and subsequent convictions of sale or intent to sell schedule 3, 4 or 5 substances will result in a sentence of 10-40 years.
Trafficking in narcotics can bring a minimum sentence of as much as 25 years and a fine up to $1 million. If federal drug charges are included, the penalties can be even more severe.
Defenses to Georgia Drug Crimes
The state or prosecution must prove each element of a drug offense beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the mere presence of a person where narcotics are found is not sufficient to charge a person. There must be evidence that connects the person to the drug. If drugs are found in your automobile or home, we may argue that other people had equal access to your vehicle or house.
Drugs are often found as a result of a search and seizure, either through a search warrant, by arrest or by plain view observation. We may challenge the search by arguing that your detention was illegal. For instance, the police officer may not have had a sufficient legal basis to stop your vehicle or may have lacked cause to search it.
If a search warrant was issued, we can challenge its validity and the probable cause upon which it was obtained. The warrant may have deficiencies including that it was not validly signed, attested to or failed to specifically point out the areas to be searched or the things to be seized. The officers also may have exceeded the scope of the search or it may have been conducted at night when only a daytime search was authorized. If the search was not valid, we may be able to get the evidence (i.e. drugs) suppressed so that they cannot be introduced as evidence at your trial. If the drugs and/or paraphernalia found in a search are suppressed, the prosecutor may have no choice but to dismiss the charges against you.
Another defense that we have successfully employed is lack of knowledge. Though a package containing drugs may have been delivered to you, this does not demonstrate that you had knowledge of the package’s contents.
Drug crimes are very serious offenses that can result in severe sentences including long terms of incarceration in prison. These defenses are just a few examples of successful defense strategies we may utilize to obtain a dismissal of any pending drug charges or acquittal at trial. If the facts and circumstances of your case make this impossible, we will seek a reduction of charges. If you have been charged with possession, distribution, sale, manufacture or any other drug offense, call McLeod Law Firm, P.C. in Gainesville, Georgia and speak to David McLeod, as an experienced criminal defense lawyer to explore your legal options and protect your rights.
McLeod Law Firm, P.C. provides exceptional legal representation based on experience and commitment to its clients across North Georgia including Gainesville, Cumming, Jefferson, Hall County, Forsyth County, Dawson County and Dawsonville. We aggressively defend those in need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. We continually update our practice to incorporate the most appropriate communication, technological, and legal advances in an effort to better serve our clients. We are located in historical downtown Gainesville, Georgia.