Drug Crime Defense Attorney in Atlanta
If you or a loved one was charged with allegedly possessing drugs or trafficking drugs, it is critically important to retain the services of an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney in Atlanta. You also need to make sure that you do not hire just any general practitioner. You owe it to yourself to hire the best drug crime defense lawyer in Atlanta to protect your rights and your personal freedom. A drug conviction is no joke and can severely impact your life, both in the immediate and long-term future.Drug Crime Conviction Means Loss of Driving Privileges
Many people are surprised to learn that being convicted of a drug crime in Georgia means your driver's license will be suspended if you are charged with felony possession in the commission of which a motor vehicle was used. If this is your first conviction, there is a mandatory twelve month license suspension. A subsequent conviction will result in the loss of your driver's license for three years. A third or subsequent drug possession conviction will result in revocation of your license.Overview of Drug Possession Laws in Georgia
In Georgia, a "schedule" of drugs was created to establish an organized hierarchy that can be used by law enforcement to assess what charges should be levied against individual allegedly in possession of certain types of drugs. Here is an overview of that schedule:
- Schedule I Drugs – drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted or recognized medical use (e.g. cocaine, heroin, etc.)
- Schedule II Drugs – drugs with high potential for abuse and the potential for psychological or physical dependence, but do have certain accepted medical uses.
- Schedule III Drugs – drugs with a reduced risk of potential abuse, low or moderate potential for psychological or physical dependence and with an established acceptable medical use.
- Schedule IV Drugs - drugs with a reduced risk of potential abuse, limited potential for psychological or physical dependence, and an acceptable medical use.
- Schedule V Drugs - drugs with the lowest potential risk for abuse by users, limited potential for dependence, and a recognized accepted medical use.
The penalties associated with a drug possession conviction vary depending on the Schedule of the drug. For example, possession of any Schedule I drug or Schedule II is punishable with a prison sentence between 2 and 15 years. Subsequent convictions of a Schedule I or II drug could result in you having to serve up to 30 years in prison. Possession of non-narcotic Schedule II drug is punishable by having to serve between 2 and 15 years in prison. Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V drug is punishable by having to serve between 1 and 5 years in prison.Charged with Marijuana Possession
The laws related to marijuana possession are in flux both in Georgia and across the country. For example, the Governor of Georgia recently enacted a law that allows for the distribution and production of low-THC oil within the state that is prescribed to patients for certain medical conditions. However, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal. This has created confusion and uncertainty both for residents of Georgia and members of law enforcement. For example, one individual can only be in possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil. If you are found to be in possession of a larger amount, the potential penalties are surprisingly severe. For example, if you are found to be in possession of between 21 and 160 fluid ounces of low-THC oil, you could potentially be ordered to serve between 1 and 10 years in jail and have to pay up to $50,000 in fines, if convicted. If you are found to be in possession of between 161 and 31,000 fluid ounces of low-THC oil, you could be ordered to serve between 5 and 10 years in jail and have to pay up to $100,000 in fines.
In regards to possession of non-TCH oil forms of marijuana, as it stands today, the potential penalties for marijuana possession in Georgia are as follows:
- Possession of one ounce or less is considered to be a misdemeanor offense punishable by having to serve up to one year in prison and having to pay a fine of up to $1,000.
- Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is considered a felony offense punishable by having to serve up to 10 years in prison (including a mandatory one year prison term) and having to pay fines up to $5,000.
When it comes to cocaine, there is no ambiguity about possession – it is against the law. The sale of cocaine is a felony offense in Georgia. If convicted, you could be ordered to serve between 5 and 30 years in prison. However, if you are a first-time offender, your prison sentence may not be as long. Nevertheless, you would still be required to serve a minimum one-year prison term.
If you are charged with selling cocaine (or any illicit narcotic) within a school zone or while a child is present during the transaction, the penalties only escalate.Accountability Courts
When you retain the services of an experienced drug possession defense lawyer in Atlanta, they may bring up the option of seeking a resolution through an "accountability court" if you are a first-time offender. These courts were established to help ease the burden on the judicial and criminal justice system with a focus on helping drug addicts achieve recovery. Georgia's accountability courts routinely offer drug abatement programs such as counseling in lieu of harsher forms of punishment for first-time drug offenders and are located in some but not all Georgia counties.Overview of Drug Trafficking Laws
One of the most serious drug charges that can be filed against an individual is alleged drug trafficking. Law enforcement may charge someone with drug trafficking if they believe an individual is selling, transporting or importing illegal drugs either within the state or across state lines. Drug trafficking is also referred to as drug distribution.
Drug trafficking can be a state or federal crime (or both). It is also a serious felony offense that, if convicted, could result in you having to serve years in prison and pay thousands of dollars in fines. The punishment for drug trafficking can vary widely depending on several factors including:
- The type and quantity of drugs involved;
- The geographic area of distribution; and
- Whether children were specifically targeted for distribution.
It is also important to understand that if you are found to be in possession of drugs, you could still be charged with drug trafficking if law enforcement reasonably believe that you intended to sell the drugs to others. Additionally, drug distribution or trafficking laws apply to the illegal distribution of prescription drugs (e.g., OxyContin, Fentanyl, etc.).Potential Defenses That Can Be Raised to Challenge Drug Possession Charges
If you or a loved one is charged with possession of drugs, either for personal use or with the intent to sell, now is not the time to throw your hands up in despair. Now is the time to take action to protect your rights and your personal freedom. One of the best actions you can take is contacting a respected and experienced Atlanta drug crime defense attorney. When you hire an attorney, they can help determine what defenses could potentially apply to your particular case. Here are some examples of potential defenses that could be raised in your drug case:Police Conducted an Unlawful Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that every citizen has the right to due process of law. This includes not being subjected to an unlawful search of your premises and belongings, in addition to illegal seizure of your personal item. The issues related to searches and seizures often arise in drug possession and distribution cases.
If your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, evidence related to drugs obtained by police through the unlawful search and seizure may not be used at your criminal trial. If the evidence is not allowed, then it is quite common for the government to drop the charges entirely.The Identified Drugs Belonged to Another Individual
If you had no idea that drugs were in your home and they were not in your possession, it may be possible to raise this defense. An effective drug crime defense attorney will challenge the government's assertion that you owned the drugs and make the prosecutors prove that the identified drugs found in your automobile or home actually belonged to you and not someone else.Analysis from Crime Lab
This is a viable defense when the alleged drugs that were identified turn out not to be illegal narcotics or other forms of drugs. It is important to understand that the government carries the burden of proving that a seized substance is in fact an illicit drug. This is established by a crime lab analysis. The results of that analysis must then be submitted to the court as evidence and the crime lab analyst must then testify at your trial in order for the government to make its case.Law Enforcement Planted the Drugs
This is a challenging defense to actually prove, but it still warrants investigation. Your Atlanta drug crime defense attorney has the ability to file a motion that, if granted by the judge, would require the police department to release a copy of the complaint file of the given police officer. This file is important because it contains the names and contact of information of associated with the investigation who can then be interviewed by your lawyer or a member of their legal team.Entrapment
Entrapment occurs when a police officer, or government informant, induces an individual to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed. For example, if an informant pressured you into passing drugs to another party, this could be considered a form of entrapment.Take Action Today by Contacting an Experienced Drug Charge Defense Lawyer in Atlanta
As you can see, being charged with a drug crime does not automatically mean you are guilty of the alleged drug crime. You can fight the charges and raise important issues that call into question the government's case against you. One of the best ways to protect your rights is by contacting Atlanta drug crime defense attorney Thomas C. Nagel. He offers private and confidential consultations to all prospective clients and has over 30 years of experience defending clients in drug offense cases. Contact his office today to learn more.