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Cobb County Criminal Defense Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Attorney / The Basics of Drug Possession Law in Georgia

The Basics of Drug Possession Law in Georgia


The state of Georgia has some of the harshest penalties for drug possession in the country. Understanding Georgia’s laws regarding controlled substances could prevent you from running afoul of them and facing stiff punishment.

If you find yourself facing drug possession charges, hiring an experienced, well-versed criminal defense attorney is vital. If you’re scared or overwhelmed, we understand. At Schwartz Law, We’re here to help provide you with the information necessary to help you better understand drug possession laws in Georgia.

Let’s take a look at some of the laws regarding drug offenses and address your options.

Understanding Georgia’s Drug Classifications

Georgia classifies controlled substances into five different groups called schedules. While multiple factors determine what sort of punishment you face for drug possession, it starts with the substance’s schedule. These classifications are:

  • – Schedule I – Drugs with no recognized medical uses that have great potential for addiction, abuse, or harm.
  • – Schedule II – Drugs that have recognized medical uses but still have great potential for addiction, abuse, or harm.
  • – Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V – Drugs that have recognized medical uses with low potential for addiction, abuse, or harm.

Georgia law punishes unlawful possession of any Schedule controlled substance (other than marijuana) the most severely, as these drugs are the most dangerous. Such drug possession is a felony with punishments including:

  • – Schedule I controlled substances, Schedule II narcotics, and Schedule II non-narcotics carry prison terms depending on the amount you have. A first offense carries a punishment of one to fifteen years in prison. Later offenses can carry up to thirty years in prison each.
  • – Unlawful distribution (including sale) of Schedule I or II controlled substances can be punished with up to thirty years in prison.
  • – Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V unlawful possession is punishable by one to five years in prison. Future convictions can be punished by one to ten years each.
  • – Unlawful distribution of any Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances can be punished with up to ten years in prison.

Georgia treats marijuana possession differently. State law defines one ounce or less as a misdemeanor. Such a charge could end with one year in jail, probation, a suspended license, and a $1,000 fine. Possessing more significant amounts becomes a felony carrying up to ten years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

What Defines Possession in Georgia?

When Georgia law refers to “possession” or a controlled substance, it doesn’t mean that you have to have physically possessed the substance at the time of the arrest. Possession could mean that the drugs were in your home or your vehicle. Drugs discovered in a building or vehicle you are in control of are the same as if they were in your pocket.

What Defines Unlawful Possession?

Controlled substances that have no recognized medical use cannot be possessed legally. Thus, any ownership of them is unlawful. However, possessing legal prescription drugs, a doctor didn’t prescribe you is also considered illegal. Even though such medications are permitted to use, the law assumes you got them illegally since they are only available by prescription.

What Defines Intention to Distribute?

An officer doesn’t need to catch you in the act of selling or giving drugs to someone to charge you with intent to distribute a controlled substance in Georgia. Police and prosecutors can use circumstantial evidence to argue your intentions, even without proof. For example, if the amount of drugs you have is more than one person would use, police could use that to show intent. Police can similarly use the presence of tools associated with drug distribution (like scales or bags) to argue intent to distribute.

What Is Conditional Discharge?

In the state of Georgia, first-time drug offenders are eligible for a conditional discharge. You’ll be required to plead guilty in exchange for probation. The judge sets conditions of your probation and a period. If you follow the full terms for that period, the judge will drop the charges. If you violate them, however, the charges will be pursued in court.

How Can I Fight Drug Charges in Georgia?

If you’re charged with drug crimes in Georgia, you should talk to a defense attorney right away. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help you avoid mistakes that could lead to severe consequences. Without their guidance, you could end up incriminating yourself further.

A criminal lawyer will focus on police procedure when combating drug possession charges. For example, unreasonable search and seizure is a common defense tactic. If the arresting officers did not have probable cause to search you, your house, or your person (or if they can’t prove they did), it could invalidate the charges against you.

Your defense attorney can also force the prosecution to prove you had knowledge of the drugs, which is a requirement for possession charges. Similar defenses could also get the charges against you reduced.

Schwartz Law Will Fight For You

The Schwartz Law team has been serving Cobb County with experienced, proven legal defense strategies for years. We specialize in DUI cases and drug-related offenses, traffic crimes, and general criminal defense.

We do more than provide you with a knowledgeable Atlanta DUI lawyer — we hold steadfast in defense of your rights as a citizen. Reach out to us now and get your free consultation.

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