Anyone facing a drug charge in Georgia needs to realize that in terms of their future prospects, the stakes are indeed very high. The ramifications of conviction of offenses within this realm are profound and can detrimentally impact entire families for decades. Extended terms of incarceration, onerous monetary fines, job loss, social stigma and other consequences can lay waste to all the lives they touch. Whether the allegations at issue relate to possession, cultivation, manufacture, trafficking or any other category of drug-related crime, there is no time to waste in developing an aggressive defense strategy. The attorneys of Morris Law, P.C. are dedicated to the proposition that every defendant deserves zealous representation, and we stand ready to conduct the sort of comprehensive investigation necessary to provide precisely that.
Categories of Drug Offenses in Georgia
As is true of most criminal classifications, the required elements and potential penalties for drug offenses in Georgia are varied and vast, with each bringing its own set of implications for those convicted. The actual sanctions to be faced following a guilty finding frequently depend on the presence or absence of mitigating factors, prior record of the offense and other discretionary aspects of the individual case. In order to understand the full breath of drug laws in Georgia, it is useful to review a series of offense types and the distinctions they embody.
The most basic sort of drug offense codified in Georgia statute is that of possession. This is simply the act of having any amount at all of an illegal drug. It should be noted, however, that a range of penalties may attach for possession convictions, based on the specific drug at issue, how much of it was present, where it was found and whether the offender has a past record of similar brushes with the law.
Possession with Intent to Distribute or Sell
Considered a more significant offense than possession alone, the crime of possession with intent to sell can bring far more stringent sanctions. Charges of this nature can result from a number of different factors, including the total volume of drugs discovered, the presence of measuring tools or devices and the manner in which the drugs are contained or packaged. The convergence of damaging factors can cause this especially dangerous charge to be issued. Intent to distribute or sell represents an aggravating factor which can boost punishments dramatically for those convicted.
Manufacturing and Cultivation
Everyone in Georgia needs to be aware that cultivation and manufacturing offenses are quite serious in terms of penalties, even for those found guilty of raising a comparatively small volume of marijuana for personal use. Whether the offense charged relates to the manufacture of extremely problematic drugs such as crystal meth or, in the alternative, drugs on the lower end of the hazard continuum, these crimes can constitute felonies which, according to Georgia law, yield harsh mandatory minimum sentences.
Prescription Drug Offenses
This category of crime involves illegal efforts to procure drugs that are, for some, entirely legal. Antidepressants and painkillers are among the drugs most commonly the subject of such attempts, as they can be extremely addictive when abused. Prescription drug offenses can include things such as:
- forging or counterfeiting prescriptions
- making alterations to legitimate prescriptions
- appropriating a prescription written for another
- presenting false identification to obtain prescription drugs
- forging physician signatures
- attempting to secure the same prescription drugs from several different doctors
These offenses are routinely charged as felonies and can also bring separate possession charges. Taken together, the punishments for crimes of this type can accumulate to an unmanageable degree, making a resumption of a productive life almost impossible for the foreseeable future.
Medical Marijuana-Related Crimes
Contrary to the trend in many other jurisdictions across the country, Georgia has not taken significant steps toward legalization of medical marijuana beyond approving the use of certain cannabis oils meant to alleviate the symptoms of a narrow class of ailments. In fact, possession of marijuana is regularly prosecuted in the state, and possession of amounts greater than one ounce is a felony that carries a term of incarceration between one and ten years.
Not unlike alcohol-related DUIs, incidents in which a driver is suspected of operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs are treated with extreme gravity in Georgia. The menu of sanctions available to punish those found guilty of endangering others in this way is quite broad and can include license suspensions, jail time, costly fines and long periods of probationary supervision. It is important for motorists to realize that charges can attach even for driving under the influence of legally prescribed medications, provided that the arresting officer deems there to have been an unacceptable level of risk to others.
One of the most onerous drug offense charges an individual can face is that of trafficking. This crime represents far more than simple possession and an intent to distribute or sell. Trafficking implies action in furtherance of a plan to transport, smuggle, import or sell illegal substances across borders. The intersection of state and federal laws is crucial, and federal agents devote a lot of resources to investigating and prosecuting these types of crime. Given the perceived social destruction drug trafficking can cause, it should come as no surprise that the penalties meted out following conviction can be truly devastating.
Potential Penalties for Drug Offenders in Georgia
Drug offenders in Georgia should expect to face a series of penalties which can negatively impact themselves, their loved ones and their prospects, sometimes permanently. Mandatory minimum sentencing, crippling monetary fines, driver's license revocation and mandatory drug education and treatment programming can substantially limit freedom for a lengthy period of time. For these reasons, it is incumbent upon everyone accused of a drug offense to take all possible steps to secure a zealous legal defense team. An experienced, knowledgeable drug crimes attorney will work to investigate the specific facts underlying the allegations, explore all avenues of attack concerning the prosecution's case and do everything possible to have charges reduced or even dropped. If those outcomes prove elusive, all efforts will be made to limit the punishments ultimately imposed so that all hope of a brighter future is not lost.
Lasting Impact on Offenders and Families
The penalties for violating state and federal drug laws provided by statute are debilitating enough, but it is also important to address some of the ancillary side effects of a conviction, which can sometimes be just as bad. Individuals with a criminal record that includes drug-related offenses often face a lifetime of difficulty securing or retaining gainful employment. Professional licenses can also be subject to revocation, placing a past offender's livelihood in danger. Custodial arrangements for minor children may also be negatively impacted by a drug conviction, as can the offender's ability to participate in community activities involving youngsters, including their own kids. The social stigma stemming from a criminal history of this type can also be difficult to shake, bringing shame and public scorn upon innocent loved ones.
Drug Crimes Defense in Georgia
Those who have faced allegations of drug crimes in the past will undoubtedly attest to the often paralyzing fear and uncertainty that arise. It is not uncommon for those accused of drug offenses to feel as though they simply cannot fight the uphill battle required to reclaim their lives. However, the truth of the matter is that effective defenses to charges of this nature often do exist, and an attorney with Morris Law, P.C. will be able to identify which of them may be relevant to a given client's case. By applying the law to the unique facts of each charge, we will isolate the most effective lines of attack to build the strongest possible arguments.
Because drug charges are frequently the fruit of unlawful searches and seizures in violation of constitutional protections, it is often possible to achieve dismissal of such allegations on this basis alone. Jill and Pittman Morris will also work collaboratively with clients and court officials to explore adjudication alternatives and diversionary programs designed to give first-time, nonviolent offenders an opportunity for a fresh start. However, in order for defendants to stand the very best chance of obtaining a positive outcome in a drug-related case, it is critical that they seek aggressive legal counsel at the earliest possible moment following an arrest.
Help for Those Facing Georgia Drug Charges
None of us wish to be in the position of defending against a criminal charge, particularly when the allegations relate to drugs. The implications of a Georgia drug conviction can be truly life-altering and bring devastation and ruin not just to the person convicted, but also their entire family.
At Morris Law, P.C. we understand the crisis facing those charged with drug crimes and we stand ready to enter the fray and fight to protect their rights to fairness before the law. By exploiting weaknesses in the state's case, highlighting mitigating factors and demanding adherence to constitutionally authorized evidence collection practices, we will provide the tireless advocacy every client deserves.
If you are facing a drug charge in Georgia and would like to learn more about your legal defense options, we invite you to contact us by calling (706) 250-1316.