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Georgia code 16-13-30 states that it is unlawful for a person to purchase, possess, manufacture, distribute, or sell a controlled substance or marijuana. The only exception to this code is legal possession of such a substance through a legal prescription. Violators of these laws will find themselves facing steep penalties, ranging from misdemeanors, aggravated misdemeanors, and all ranges of felony penalties. The range depends primarily on the type of substance a Defendant possesses and how much of it they have. Generally, substances that are controlled are broken down into categories, or “schedules”, based on their likelihood of being abused and potential medical applications.

Schedule Breakdown

As previously mentioned, the schedule breakdown for controlled substances follows two patterns. First, the substance is considered by its likelihood of being abused. It is then considered by its potential for medical application:

Schedule I– Schedule I drugs are generally considered the most serious category of drug offenses. These drugs are those that are considered highly addictive in nature, both physically and psychologically, but have no potential for medical use. Examples would include extasy, heroin, and LSD.

Schedule II– Schedule II drugs are very similar in nature and severity to Schedule I drugs, but do have some medical application. They are also considered extremely dangerous for physical and psychological dependency. Examples of a Schedule II would Include amphetamines, cocaine, oxycodone, morphine, and methamphetamine.

Schedule III– Schedule III drugs are the first schedule to show a moderate risk of physical dependency, but a high potential for psychological dependency. Again, this schedule does have medical applications. Examples would be hydrocodone, anabolic steroids, and certain barbituates.

Schedule IV– Schedule IV is considered a step down from III in regards to potential for physical or psychological dependence. Examples would include Valium and Xanax.

Schedule V– Schedule V drugs are considered the lowest risk of dependency of all categories of controlled substances. They can still be abused if used incorrectly. Examples are cough syrups that include codeine.

Possession Penalties

Having established the different schedules of drugs, the next important aspect of a drug case to understand is what’s at stake. The first consideration for severity of a possession charge is generally what the drug in possession is, followed by how much of it is possessed. For example, less than an ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Schedule drugs are different. Unlawful possession of ANY schedule, I through V, is a felony offense. Also included in these felony drug charges is possession of marijuana more than one ounce. The severity of felony possession cases varies on the schedule and quantity.

Schedule I and II– This is the most severe category of possession offenses. These substances are the most dangerous and possession of such is penalized accordingly. Someone facing Schedule II or II narcotic charges is looking at 2-15 years of prison time or probation, hefty fines, and a variety of other sentence conditions. Subsequent convictions effectively double the stakes. A second conviction carries 5-30 years in prison or probation, massive fines, days or weeks of community service, and many other possibilities. You may also face license suspensions from such a conviction.

Schedule III through V– These schedules carry smaller ranges of penalties, but they are still extremely serious. Someone convicted of possession in these schedules could look at 1-5 years of prison and probation with all other possible felony conviction penalties. Subsequent violations, as with I and II, will effectively double these penalties. License suspensions are also a possibility in such a conviction.

It’s worth noting that felony marijuana, anything more than 1oz, is punishable by 1-10 years of prison or probation, $5,000 fine, and other felony conditions. That is for possession and personal use. Possession with intent or sale are entirely different.

Possession Defense

As with any criminal case, understanding your personal situation, rights, and defenses is critical in getting the best possible outcome in your case. The best way to do that is to seek counsel as soon as possible following an arrest. Generally, possession cases are reviewed for defenses based on the arresting officer’s investigation and probable cause. Improper police procedure can sometimes get the entire case thrown out. Additionally, violations of certain rights you have could also be grounds to dismiss the case against you. There are many common questions legal counsel will consider when reviewing a possession case. First and foremost, did the officer have probable cause to conduct a search? Probable cause is critical in a possession case. If a search was conducted, did the officer have a proper warrant to execute the search? Improper execution of a search warrant, or a lack thereof, is a common defense leading to dismissal of possession cases. Defendants may also have rights that must be observed when it comes to search and seizure, such as our Constitutional 4th Amendment.

Sometimes law enforcement gets everything right, but there can still be defenses in these scenarios. What if the drugs weren’t yours, but you were with someone who did have drugs on their person? Unfortunately, possession does not equate to ownership, but with the right counsel this is an argument that can get good results in a drug possession case. Planted drugs, entrapment, and many other defenses can always be considered, but the majority of these defenses are specific on a case by case basis.

As with any criminal charge, the burden of proving your guilt lies with the State. The strength of your defense depends on how effectively your counsel can minimize weak evidence and penalties against you. Even weak and circumstantial evidence could result in a conviction if it’s not handled appropriately. Take action sooner than later by scheduling to consult with us about your case to ensure your professional representation. We look forward to working with you.