by Mary Agramonte

As more states in the United States legalize recreational marijuana use, you may wonder if Georgia still treats marijuana convictions the same as they used to. As of January 1, 2020, recreational marijuana was legal for adults in 11 states, and medical marijuana was legal in 33 states. Yet, while some has changed, the law in Georgia regarding misdemeanor marijuana has stayed the same. The short answer is that prosecutors and law enforcement still harshly penalize the use of marijuana in Georgia.

            In Georgia,
you can still be arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Unfortunately,
in most jurisdictions, if a police officer locates marijuana, you will be taken
into custody. An arrest and fingerprints during the booking process is what
triggers criminal history reporting. Any time you are fingerprinted, the
Sheriff’s Office then forwards your charges to the Georgia Crime Information
Center, which is responsible for maintaining criminal records in Georgia. 

Even if you are arrested for
marijuana possession, there are options to keep the arrest off your record. In
Georgia, any time a case is dismissed through the criminal process, whether it is
for a diversion or pretrial intervention program, or because the marijuana was
unlawfully seized, or for any other reason, the entire arrest will be
restricted off your record (formerly known as expungement process). A dismissal is a necessity if your goal is
to keep the marijuana arrest off your record.

            Diversion programs are typically offered to youthful or first time offenders and typically require some community service or classes. Once these items are completed, the case gets completely dismissed and is erased off the criminal history. First offender pleas and conditional discharge pleas are also available in this case. Jury trials and bench trials are always an option in marijuana cases, just as they are in all criminal cases.

            Another way
that a marijuana possession charge in Georgia will not result in a criminal
history is if the officer released you on a ticket or citation. If there was a
ticket, then there were no fingerprints. Here, it is imperative that during the
court process, they do not require fingerprints as part of any type of plea, or
else it will in fact still go on your criminal history.

            In order
for the State to prove you committed the crime of marijuana possession, they
must also prove that the investigation was lawful. Our Constitution protects us
from unreasonable searches and seizures. It is imperative that all vehicle
stops, searches, and search warrants be closely scrutinized to ensure that your
Constitutional rights were protected during the investigation. If there was
an illegal search, the marijuana would be thrown out of evidence, and the case
dismissed. This would ensure a clean criminal history.

            How long does marijuana possession
stay on my record?

histories in Georgia are forever. There is no aging off when it comes to crimes
entered onto your GCIC. This is why it is imperative that the case be
thoroughly investigated and defended in order to safeguard the person’s future
and clean record.  There are options. If
you or a loved one has been charged with marijuana possession in Georgia, the
lawyers of W. Scott Smith are available 24/7 for a FREE CONSULTATION at