What to do if arrested for Possession of Drugs or Possession with Intent in Fulton County

If you are arrested for any drug offense in Fulton County, do not make any statements to the police. You will be taken to the Fulton County jail at 901 Rice Street. You will be on the first appearance calendar the following morning at 11:00. It is important to have an attorney for this court appearance.

At your first appearance hearing, the Magistrate Court judge will review the facts in the warrant and your criminal history and will decide whether to issue you a bond or not. There are a few options regarding bond. The first is they may give you an unsecured judicial release and make you report to pre-trial services. This allows you to get out of jail without paying any money. The next option is to give you a regular bond where you would have to go through a bonding company to be released. The final option is that they deny your bond. In Fulton County, in most drug cases, bond is set at first appearance.

Once you are released from the Fulton County jail, please ask any person who was with you that night to write out a statement of what they remember happening the night of the arrest. This could be helpful in preparing for the motions hearing and trial in Fulton County. It is also important for you to write out a statement of anything you remember regarding the incident. Only give this statement to your attorney.

It is important that you hire an attorney quickly as there are tight deadlines on filing a Motion to Suppress which is a constitutional challenge to the drug evidence. Most drug cases are either won or lost at the Motions hearing. If you wait too long, you will be unable to file a Motion to Suppress.

Being convicted of a felony drug offense in Fulton County carries many consequences, including, but not limited to, a felony drug conviction on your record, loss of gun rights, loss of voting rights and has a detrimental impact on your securing a loan from a bank or employment.

You are welcome to call us 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and we will be there with you for your First Appearance hearing at the Fulton County jail.

Possession of Drugs in Clayton County – Atlanta Drug Possession Lawyer

The legal system in Clayton County treats drug crimes seriously. If you have been arrested for the possession of drugs in Clayton County, you could be facing jail, fines, and probation. In order for the State to prove drug possession, it must be shown that the contraband was lawfully seized. If there was an illegal search, or an illegal seizure, the evidence must be suppressed, and the case dismissed.

If you have been arrested in Clayton County, the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. The Clayton County Superior Court is located at 9151 Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro, Georgia.  The first step following an arrest, is the First Appearance hearing. This is where the Judge will notify you of your charges and rights and then make a determination for bond. In Georgia, there are five factors Judges use to determine whether or not to release someone on bond. These are known as the Ayala factors (Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704 (1993)). Judges may issue a bond upon a finding of the following factors:

  • The person poses no significant risk of fleeing or failing to appear in court when required
  • The person poses no significant risk or danger to a person, property, or community
  • The person poses no significant risk of committing a felony while out on bond
  • The person poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing justice

Under the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, drugs are classified into 5 schedules based on their potential for abuse, tendency for addiction, and their recognized medical uses. Schedule I is considered to have the highest risk of physical and psychological dependency and are considered to have no medical use, while Schedule V is recognized to have lower risk of dependency and legitimate medical use. The following are common examples of drugs that the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have defended in the past.

Schedule I

Heroin, THC, LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy).

Schedule II

Cocaine, Codein, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Methadone, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Oxycontin, Percocet

Schedule III

Suboxone, Ketamine, Anabolic steroids

Schedule IV

Xanax, Ambien, Valium

Drug Possession Penalties in Fulton County

The penalties in Clayton County and in Georgia can be harsh following a conviction.  Possession of drugs in Georgia is a felony, except for marijuana if it less than an ounce. If it is your first offense and you are found guilty of a Schedule I or II drug, you are looking at 2-15 years in prison, intense probation, and high fines.

On second or subsequent offenses of Schedule I or II drugs, you are looking at at least 5 years in prison, and up to 30, with the possibility of similar probation and high fines as the first.

If you are found with Schedule III, IV, or V drugs, the penalty will be 1 to 5 years in prison. If it is your second or subsequent offense, you are facing 1 to 10 years prison time.

Additionally, if you are found guilty and a car was used during the felony, your driver’s license will be suspended.

How the State Proves Possession

The drugs do not have to be found on your person for you to be guilty of drug possession. Driving a car in which drugs are found is sufficient for the law to determine that you are in violation of the Controlled Substance Act. Even if the drugs are found thrown out or hidden, the State will still try to prove you were in possession. Depending on where the drugs were found, two people or more can be considered to have possession of the same drugs. Important facts for both the state and defense are whether or not paraphernalia or residue in plain view was found, and also whether you attempted to flee.

Additionally, drug crimes almost always implicate Fourth Amendment a analysis which can serve as a basis for suppression of the drugs. This means that if the State unlawfully searched or seized the drugs, the drugs are thrown out of evidence, and the case dismissed.

Talk to an Attorney

Because a conviction of drug possession carries lifelong consequences, it is important you speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable about drug possession laws in Georgia. Pleading guilty to any drug possession offense will have harsh penalties that we want you to avoid. Know your legal options and challenge the evidence so that you can move on from this arrest in the best way possible. Call us for a FREE CONSULTATION today at 404-581-0999 and mention this blog.

Marijuana Edibles and THC Cartridge Charges in Georgia

If you have been charged in Georgia with marijuana edibles or a THC cartridge here is what you need to know to prepare yourself for court.

 

Edible forms of cannabis, including THC ladened gummies (i.e. gummy bears), cookies, brownies, honey sticks, Rice Krispy treats, chocolate bars, sodas, lozenges, and capsules, are all illegal in Georgia. All marijuana edibles contain a significant amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC edibles in Georgia, even those consumed for recreational and medical purposes, are illegal. Similarly, all electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, or weed pen with a THC vapor cartridge is illegal under Georgia law.

 

Under Georgia law, extracting marijuana oil out of the plant-based material makes the crime of possession a felony offense. The punishment you can face for possessing marijuana edibles or a THC vape pen are described at the bottom of this article.

THC is the psychopharmacologically active component of the cannabis plant. Most THC exists in the form of an isomer known as delta-9-THC, but somewhat less than ten percent of naturally occurring THC is of the delta-8 isomer. Both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC produce a psychological effect. They are found in all cannabis plants, and they are not known to exist elsewhere in nature. Concentrations of THC can be produced in two ways, either by chemically extracting it from the cannabis plant or by synthesizing it in the laboratory. A simple procedure, using organic solvents to remove the THC from cannabis, can produce an oily substance variously known as “hash oil,” “marijuana oil,” or “liquid marijuana.” THC thus extracted “is not marijuana; it is tetrahydrocannabinol. It is the extract, the pure compound from the drug.

 

Edibles, most commonly cannabidiol or CBD, with very little THC are illegal in Georgia.  Under Georgia’s strict laws regarding the use or possession of any product that has THC extracted from the plant (or where no plant fibers are present) is a serious charge.  The lone exception is for prescribed THC oil where you have a Georgia prescription.  Once you obtain a Georgia THC card, Georgia allows you to possess 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil within the state of Georgia.  However, the law requires that the low THC oil be “in a pharmaceutical container labeled by the manufacturer indicating the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol therein,” be less than 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol by weight, and that the amount of oil in the container – or containers – not exceed 20 fluid ounces total.  Ironically, the “standard dose” in recreational THC use is considered 10 mg over a five-hour period.

 

The crimes relating to the possession or sale of marijuana are set forth in the Georgia Controlled Substances Act Title 16 Chapter 13.  Under OCGA § 16-13-21(16) marijuana is specifically defined as:

 

all parts of the plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of such plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin; but shall not include samples as described in subparagraph (P) of paragraph (3) of Code Section 16-13-25 and shall not include the completely defoliated mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil, or cake, or the completely sterilized samples of seeds of the plant which are incapable of germination.

 

OCGA §16-13-30:(3)(P), was changed by the Georgia legislature to provide:

 

Tetrahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid which does not contain plant material exhibiting the external morphological features of the plant of the genus Cannabis, but not including such substance when found in hemp or hemp products.

 

Penalties for Weed Edibles is located in OCGA § 16-13-30:

There are three basic tiers of punishment and they are all determined by the total weight of the substance.  Note there is a difference between the weight of a solid substance (gummy) and the weight of a liquid (vape cartridge).

Tier 1:

  • Less than one gram of solid substance.
  • Less than one milliliter of liquid substance.
  • Placed into a secondary medium with a combined weight of less than one gram.
  • Range of punishment is one to three years.

Tier 2:

  • At least one gram, but less than four grams of solid substance.
  • At least one milliliter of liquid substance, but less than four milliliters.
  • Placed into a secondary medium with the combined weight of more than one gram, but less than four grams.
  • Range of punishment is one to eight years.

Tier 3:

  • At least four grams, but less than twenty-eight grams of solid substance.
  • At least four milliliters of liquid substance, but less than twenty-eight milliliters.
  • Placed into a secondary medium with the combined weight of more than four grams, but less than twenty-eight grams.
  • Range of punishment is one to fifteen years.

I would be happy to meet with you any time for a free consultation to discuss your case, your rights and your defenses to these allegations. Our office is in downtown Atlanta.

Call me at 404-581-0999 and let’s schedule a time to meet and discuss your case.

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

Trafficking Marijuana through the Atlanta Airport

When a person traveling to Atlanta is charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport the first concern is going to be how to get a bond to get the person charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport out of jail as soon as possible.  Another question is, how much will my bond be for trafficking marijuana?  At our law firm we have handled a number of bond hearings and received consent bonds in Clayton County on trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport.  We believe we have a recipe for success that you can follow in order to get a bond on a trafficking marijuana case.  A bond hearing is where a judge will decide if the person trafficking in marijuana at the Atlanta airport is a good candidate for bond.  The factors a judge will consider on trafficking cases generally include, criminal record or lack of a criminal record, flight risk or whether the person will appear in court when directed, and/or likelihood of committing a new felony offense while out on bond.  Since people who are charged with trafficking in marijuana are generally transient or they generally have out of Georgia ties, the court will be concerned they will not appear in court when the case comes up for additional court dates.  You must be in a position to allay the court’s fears the person charged with trafficking marijuana will in fact appear in court when directed to do so.  A consent bond is where the State’s prosecutor agrees to a bond amount and the defense accepts because the person arrested for trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport feels they can afford the bond amount.

First question for consideration is how much did the Marijuana in the person traveling with marijuana in their suitcase at the Atlanta airport weigh.  If it is less that twenty pounds your chances of getting a lower bond in Clayton County are greater.  Second, did the person traveling have more that $1000 cash on them.  If they did, they are likely a mule.  A mule is someone who is generally destitute or poor and they are so desperate for money that they agree to transport a suitcase or luggage without knowing its contents.  If the person is poor and you can show the prosecutor this evidence and they had a large sum of money (which is consistent with the mule’s fee) the prosecutor is more likely to grant a bond.  Third, do the flight records show a first-time travel for that person on the same flight origination?  If so, this is likely the first time the person traveling with the large amounts of marijuana is flying with marijuana.  If you can show no pattern of travel the State is more likely to consent to a low bond.  The State’s prosecutor and Court will want to know the criminal history of client.  Things of major importance will be does the person have any felonies on their record?  Has the person ever failed to appear in court – even for traffic violations?  Does the person have any violations of probation or parole?  Furthermore, it is important to have a local address in which the person charged with trafficking marijuana will live at while the case is pending.

If you are an attorney trying to acquire a consent bond for trafficking marijuana in Clayton County at the Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield Airport, here is what you need to do.  Go through the criminal history to have a good handle on what the criminal history provides.  If any discrepancies come up on the persons charged GCIC or NCIC be in a position to pull the official court record to confirm the inaccuracies in the official record.  In our experience this happens way too often.  Second, pull a copy of the incident report.  You will need to make a copy of the incident report and provide a copy to the State’s prosecutor in order to get a quick bond offer.  If client has a passport, obtain the passport and be willing to turn the passport in to law enforcement to hold pending the case’s outcome.  If client is poor, have client provide you access to his or her bank account to show how little amount she has in the account.  If client lives in an apartment or humble residence, have someone take photos of the residence to show the State’s prosecutor client’s simple living arrangements.  If client does not have a local address to live at see if client’s family can acquire a local address.  Lastly, do not have client snitch or become a state witness.  In my experience it serves no purpose as it does not assist in getting a bond.

Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, How a Misdemeanor becomes a Felony

I had a misdemeanor amount of weed (less than one ounce) but I am being charged with a felony, what gives?

The Offense

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(1), “it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, sell, or possess with intent to distribute marijuana.” Even though the police and prosecutor may not be able to prove an actual sale occurred, they will try to discover and introduce circumstantial evidence that the person intended to distribute marijuana.

Circumstantial evidence of intent to distribute can include: scales, empty Ziploc bags, drug paraphernalia, large amounts of cash in different denominations, firearms, division of drugs into individual packages, cell phone data, or a prior conviction of possession with intent to distribute.

Possible Punishment

O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(2) states that anyone violating O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(1) “shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years.” This charge is eligible for probation, but a felony conviction can create issues in obtaining employment, housing, and schooling.

If no defenses are available, certain sentencing options such as conditional discharge or first offender treatment may be available which ultimately result in the case getting dismissed.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia Criminal Law – Drug Schedules for Controlled Substances

Georgia and Federal law provide for the “scheduling” of different controlled substances. Controlled substances are divided into different categories based on potential for abuse and medicinal use, if any. Violating state or federal controlled substances laws can result in misdemeanor or felony punishment depending on the type of substance and quantity involved.

Schedule I: These substances have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs include Heroin, LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), and MDMA (Ecstacy). Although marijuana is considered Schedule I under federal law, Georgia treats marijuana possession differently. In Georgia, simple possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable as a misdemeanor. However, if marijuana is chemically altered to another state (thc oil or wax), it can be charged as a felony.

Schedule II: These substances have a high potential for abuse but have at least some accepted medical use. Schedule II drugs include Cocaine, Amphetamine, Opium, Morphine, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Ketamine, and Fentanyl.

Schedule III: These substances have less potential for abuse than Schedule I and II as they have some accepted medical use but may lead to moderate or low physical dependence if abused. Schedule III drugs include Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, anabolic steroids, certain barbiturates, and substances or mixtures containing limited amounts of narcotics.

Schedule IV: These substances have low potential for abuse compared to Schedule III, having some accepted medical use, but may lead to limited physical and psychological dependence if abused. Schedule IV drugs include Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazapam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), and Zolpidem (Ambien).

Schedule V: These substances have low potential for abuse compared to Schedule IV, having some accepted medical use, but can also lead to limited physical and psychological dependence if abused. Schedule V drugs include substances or mixtures containing limited amounts of narcotics and must be lawfully prescribed.

A person accused of unlawful possession or the sale/distribution of any of the above controlled substances is facing serious criminal charges. A skilled and experienced attorney is necessary to navigate the law and successfully defend criminal charges.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Possession of THC Oil under Georgia Law

 

Generally, possession of a personal amount of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2(b). However, possession of other forms of THC, such as oil, resin, or wax, which are extracted from the plant, can be charged as a Schedule I felony in accordance with the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.

THE OFFENSE

V.G.C.S.A. offenses, which stands for “Violations of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act,” include criminal charges relating to the possession of THC oil. According to O.C.G.A. § 16-13-25 of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, THC oil is considered a Schedule I controlled substance. A Schedule I controlled substance is defined as:

  1. A drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse;
  2. The drug or other substance does not currently have any accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

According to O.C.G.A § 16-13-30, it is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his or her control any controlled substance, this includes non-medicinal THC oil, which is categorized as a Schedule I felony in the State of Georgia.

LOW THC OIL

However, an experienced criminal defense attorney could negotiate for a felony charge to be reduced down to a misdemeanor under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-191. This statute governs the possession of “low THC oil.” Pursuant to this statute, it is unlawful for any person to possess, purchase, or have under his control, 20 fluid ounces or less of low THC oil. If convicted under this statute, the accused will be sentenced to misdemeanor punishment.

In order for it to be considered “low THC,” the prosecution must prove that the oil was less than a 5% concentration of THC. Thus, the GBI crime lab must provide to the State, as well as to the defense, an analysis of THC concentration, which does not always happen in every case. If this is not provided, the prosecution will have difficulty proving that the oil is above a 5% concentration of THC, and therefore, an experienced criminal defense attorney could negotiate for a felony possession of THC oil charge to be reduced down to a misdemeanor.

CONTACT US

Due to the complexity of the charge of possession of THC oil, as well as the severity of the punishment, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know the possible options of an accused arrested and charged with possession of THC oil, we are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations, and we work tirelessly at advocating for our client’s rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for possession of THC oil, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia Criminal Law: Drug Trafficking in Gwinnett County

Drug trafficking charges are different from other drug crimes, such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug distribution, and drug manufacturing. The key difference between drug trafficking and these other drug charges is quantity. Because of the large amount of drugs involved in trafficking charges, the punishment is significantly higher and may result in the imposition of a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

This blog serves to explain the drug trafficking laws and how these cases are handled in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Why Gwinnett County? Gwinnett County is a highly populated and geographically vast jurisdiction that sees a high number of drug trafficking cases on an annual basis. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect from the prosecutors (District Attorney’s Office) and the Court itself when facing these charges.

The Law

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31, makes it a criminal offense to sell, manufacture, delivers, or brings into the State, cocaine, illegal drugs, and marijuana is guilty of drug trafficking. The code section separates the law by drug and by quantity.

Trafficking cocaine is defined as any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or knowingly possesses 28 or more grams[1] of cocaine. If the quantity of cocaine is between 28 grams and 200 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and shall pay a fine of $200,000. If the quantity of cocaine is between 200 grams and 400 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and shall pay a $300,000 fine. Lastly, if the quantity of cocaine is 400 grams or more, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and shall pay a fine of $1,000,000.

For morphine and opium (including heroin), a person is guilty of trafficking if they sell, manufacture, deliver, bring into this state, or possess 4 grams or more of the substance. If the quantity involved is between 4 and 14 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 5 years and shall pay a fine of $50,000. For between 14 grams and 28 grams, the sentence is at least 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000

Trafficking marijuana is defined as selling, manufacturing, growing, delivering, or possessing more than 10 pounds or marijuana. If the amount of marijuana is greater than 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds, the law requires a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence plus a $100,000 fine. If the quantity involved is greater than 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds, there is a 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $250,000 fine. Finally, if the quantity of marijuana is greater than 10,000 pounds, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 years as well as a fine of $1,000,000.

For methamphetamine and/or amphetamine, any person who sells, delivers, or brings into this state or who possesses 28 grams or more is guilty of trafficking. If the quantity is greater than 28 grams but less than 200 grams the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and pay a fine of $200,000. For quantities greater than 200 grams but less than 400 grams, it is a 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $300,000 fine. If the quantity is greater than 400 grams, the mandatory minimum prison sentence is 25 years plus a $1,000,000 fine.

Although the above sentences are described as “mandatory minimum prison” sentences, there are a few limited ways in which someone convicted of trafficking may be sentenced to less prison time than what is required by the mandatory minimums: (1) If the defendant provides “substantial assistance” to the government in identifying, arresting, and/or convicting other people involved in the drug conspiracy, the prosecutor may move the court to reduce or suspend part or all of the defendant’s sentence; (2) by agreement of the parties through a “negotiated plea”; or (3) the judge may depart from these mandatory minimums if certain mitigating factors exist (no prior felonies, no firearm used, defendant not head of conspiracy, nobody was injured as a result of criminal conduct, or if the interests of justice would not be served by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence).

Gwinnett County

If you have been arrested in Gwinnett County for drug trafficking, the first and most important step is getting a bond. Only a superior court judge may set bail on a trafficking charge. When considering whether to grant a bond the judge analyzes four factors, whether the defendant is a significant risk of:

  • Fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court
  • Posing a threat or danger to any person
  • Committing a felony while on pre-trial release
  • Intimidating witnesses

An experienced attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to consent to a bond in the case if you have ties to the community and meet the above factors. In Gwinnett County, bonds for trafficking range from $65,000 up to $125,000. The judge may also impose non-monetary restrictions (house arrest, no contact provisions, GPS ankle monitor, curfew, etc.). There is always the possibility, however, that a judge will deny setting a bond in the case, even if the bond was consented to. If the prosecutor will not agree to a bond, then the defendant will have to go before the judge and offer evidence of defendant’s ties to the communities (length of residence, family ties, employment status and history, history of responding to legal process – failure to appears or probation violations, lack of criminal history). The judge will normally set a “surety bond” where the defendant is only responsible for posting 10% of the overall bond amount and a bond company pays the rest (percentage varies depending on bond company).

If a bond is granted, the next step is fighting the case. Once all the evidence is gathered through the discovery process and our firm’s own independent investigation, we then communicate with the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to discuss a resolution. If these preliminary discussions are to no avail, we then proceed to file a “motion to suppress” illegally obtained evidence. If granted, the prosecution would not be able to proceed with the case. If denied, and the prosecutor is unwilling to dismiss or reduce the charges then we would be fully prepared to try the case before a jury. There are several defenses available to someone charged with drug trafficking:

  • Insufficient Drug Quantity (a motion to inspect evidence could reveal the weight of the substance does not meet the quantity as required in order to charge trafficking)
  • No Possession – Actual or Constructive (this defense asserts the defendant did not knowingly possess the substance in question, directly or indirectly)
  • Equal Access to Drugs (this defense relates to other individuals having access to the container or area in which the drugs were found, thereby raising doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the drugs)
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence (this is the basis of a successful motion to suppress)

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for drug trafficking, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

 

[1] With a minimum purity of 10% or more of cocaine as described in Schedule II

Georgia Criminal Law: Drug Trafficking in DeKalb County

Drug trafficking charges are different from other drug crimes, such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug distribution, and drug manufacturing. The key difference between drug trafficking and these other drug charges is quantity. Because of the large amount of drugs involved in trafficking charges, the punishment is significantly higher and may result in the imposition of a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

This blog serves to explain the drug trafficking laws and how these cases are handled in DeKalb County, Georgia. Why DeKalb County? DeKalb County is a highly populated county adjacent to Fulton that sees a high number of drug trafficking cases on an annual basis. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect from the prosecutors (District Attorney’s Office) and the Court itself when facing these charges.

The Law

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31, makes it a criminal offense to sell, manufacture, delivers, or brings into the State, cocaine, illegal drugs, and marijuana is guilty of drug trafficking. The code section separates the law by drug and by quantity.

Trafficking cocaine is defined as any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or knowingly possesses 28 or more grams[1] of cocaine. If the quantity of cocaine is between 28 grams and 200 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and shall pay a fine of $200,000. If the quantity of cocaine is between 200 grams and 400 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and shall pay a $300,000 fine. Lastly, if the quantity of cocaine is 400 grams or more, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and shall pay a fine of $1,000,000.

For morphine and opium (including heroin), a person is guilty of trafficking if they sell, manufacture, deliver, bring into this state, or possess 4 grams or more of the substance. If the quantity involved is between 4 and 14 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 5 years and shall pay a fine of $50,000. For between 14 grams and 28 grams, the sentence is at least 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000

Trafficking marijuana is defined as selling, manufacturing, growing, delivering, or possessing more than 10 pounds or marijuana. If the amount of marijuana is greater than 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds, the law requires a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence plus a $100,000 fine. If the quantity involved is greater than 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds, there is a 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $250,000 fine. Finally, if the quantity of marijuana is greater than 10,000 pounds, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 years as well as a fine of $1,000,000.

For methamphetamine and/or amphetamine, any person who sells, delivers, or brings into this state or who possesses 28 grams or more is guilty of trafficking. If the quantity is greater than 28 grams but less than 200 grams the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and pay a fine of $200,000. For quantities greater than 200 grams but less than 400 grams, it is a 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $300,000 fine. If the quantity is greater than 400 grams, the mandatory minimum prison sentence is 25 years plus a $1,000,000 fine.

Although the above sentences are described as “mandatory minimum prison” sentences, there are a few limited ways in which someone convicted of trafficking may be sentenced to less prison time than what is required by the mandatory minimums: (1) If the defendant provides “substantial assistance” to the government in identifying, arresting, and/or convicting other people involved in the drug conspiracy, the prosecutor may move the court to reduce or suspend part or all of the defendant’s sentence; (2) by agreement of the parties through a “negotiated plea”; or (3) the judge may depart from these mandatory minimums if certain mitigating factors exist (no prior felonies, no firearm used, defendant not head of conspiracy, nobody was injured as a result of criminal conduct, or if the interests of justice would not be served by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence).

DeKalb County

If you have been arrested in DeKalb County for drug trafficking, the first and most important step is getting a bond. Only a superior court judge may set bail on a trafficking charge. When considering whether to grant a bond the judge analyzes four factors, whether the defendant is a significant risk of:

  • Fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court
  • Posing a threat or danger to any person
  • Committing a felony while on pre-trial release
  • Intimidating witnesses

An experienced attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to consent to a bond in the case if you have ties to the community and meet the above factors. In DeKalb County, bonds for trafficking range from $65,000 up to $125,000. The judge may also impose non-monetary restrictions (house arrest, no contact provisions, GPS ankle monitor, curfew, etc.). There is always the possibility, however, that a judge will deny setting a bond in the case, even if the bond was consented to. If the prosecutor will not agree to a bond, then the defendant will have to go before the judge and offer evidence of defendant’s ties to the communities (length of residence, family ties, employment status and history, history of responding to legal process – failure to appears or probation violations, lack of criminal history). The judge will normally set a “surety bond” where the defendant is only responsible for posting 10% of the overall bond amount and a bond company pays the rest (percentage varies depending on bond company).

If a bond is granted, the next step is fighting the case. Once all the evidence is gathered through the discovery process and our firm’s own independent investigation, we then communicate with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to discuss a resolution. If these preliminary discussions are to no avail, we then proceed to file a “motion to suppress” illegally obtained evidence. If granted, the prosecution would not be able to proceed with the case. If denied, and the prosecutor is unwilling to dismiss or reduce the charges then we would be fully prepared to try the case before a jury. There are several defenses available to someone charged with drug trafficking:

  • Insufficient Drug Quantity (a motion to inspect evidence could reveal the weight of the substance does not meet the quantity as required in order to charge trafficking)
  • No Possession – Actual or Constructive (this defense asserts the defendant did not knowingly possess the substance in question, directly or indirectly)
  • Equal Access to Drugs (this defense relates to other individuals having access to the container or area in which the drugs were found, thereby raising doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the drugs)
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence (this is the basis of a successful motion to suppress)

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for drug trafficking, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

[1] With a minimum purity of 10% or more of cocaine as described in Schedule II

Morgan County Georgia Drug Crime

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Morgan County, you have come to right place. I-20 runs through Morgan County so a majority of drug cases originate from unlucky people who just happened to be passing through Morgan County on their way to one of a number of cities connected by I-20. You can almost guarantee that there will be one or more officers policing that strip of interstate at any given time.  Make no mistake about it, those officers are there to write traffic citations and will always have an eye towards sniffing out drugs in your vehicle.  This is how a majority of drug cases begin in any county, but Morgan County really capitalizes on its stretch of interstate.

So we will assume that if you are charged with a drug crime in Morgan County, that your case likely started as a result of an automobile search for the time being.  Please refer to our previous blogs if your case happens to be the result of some other encounter such as a search of your residence or an encounter with an officer on foot.

The first step in defending any automobile search is to attack the basis for the stop of the vehicle.  I.e. the officer had no reason to stop you and thus it was an illegal search and seizure based on a bad stop.  The second step is to determine how exactly the officer got his or her hands on the drugs.  Hopefully, you did not consent to the search or willingly hand over the drugs since the officer still needs a valid warrant (or likely one of a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement) to search your vehicle.  If you did consent, then you have waived any further argument about an unlawful search and seizure, but we can still attack the basis for the initial stop and attack your “consent” as being coerced by the officer.  There are a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement, but that is precisely the reason you consult with and ultimately hire the best defense attorney you can find.  For drug crimes in Morgan County, we’ll ensure you get the best possible outcome.  Call us today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.