Although a comparatively less dangerous drug than some of the others that share its classification, marijuana possession in Georgia still comes with harsh sentencing and penalties if convicted.
Not only will you be possibly subjected to jail time and hefty fines, a conviction can bring unintended consequences with it. This may include the inability to pursue certain professional occupations, ineligibility for admissions into specific graduate programs, as well as losing the eligibility to receive some types of governmental assistance that so many rely on.
Understanding the laws and process concerning a possession of marijuana charge is the first step in keeping this issue from becoming a major long-term problem in your life. Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a strong defense approach to this issue could help you get the charges reduces, or possibly dismissed.
O.C.G.A §16-13-2 states that possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. In certain cases, an individual may be able to perform community service for up to 12 months. Alternatively, an individual who is a first time offender may also be eligible for deferred adjudication or probation under O.C.G.A § 16-13-2(a).
If you were allegedly found with an ounce or more of marijuana, you will most likely be charged with a felony, which comes with a presumptive sentence of one to ten years in jail and / or fines of up to $10,000.
The state of Georgia does differentiate between different “types” of possession. According to Georgia Code, an alleged offender must have actual or constructive possession of marijuana in order to be charged.
• Actual Possession – usually means the marijuana was in the alleged offender’s hand, on their body, in their clothing or within their immediate reach.
• Constructive possession – usually means the alleged offender was able to take control of the marijuana, they had intent to take actual possession of the marijuana, and they had the knowledge that the marijuana was in their presence. Because of all the requirements necessary to convict on a constructive basis, this is a much harder charge to prosecute.
Although seemingly unconnected to the alleged crime at hand, the state of Georgia also requires that if you have been convicted of marijuana possession you will also have your license suspended (O.C.G.A 40-5-75). You will presumptively receive a driver’s license suspension for 180 days for a first conviction, a one year suspension for a second conviction, and five years for those convicted a third time. No matter what the situation, you are also unable to apply to receive a limited or hardship driving permit. As for reinstatement of your license, you will need to complete a Drug Risk Reduction program and pay a reinstatement fee of $200.
With the sheer amount of negative consequences that develop after a marijuana possession conviction, an effective defensive strategy is vital in avoiding these extremely punitive and anxiety inducing penalties. If you choose to work with a Georgia criminal defense attorney, this work is best done as soon as possible. This allows your attorney to conduct any necessary independent investigation, consult witnesses and experts, or gather time-sensitive information.