Does a Marijuana Charge Stay on Your Record in Georgia?

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?

            Criminal 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 404-581-0999.