Imagine you have just flown into Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. You get off the plane and proceed to baggage claim. After you grab your bag, you are approached by several people who identify themselves as law enforcement. They ask to search your luggage and you agree. A search reveals a large quantity of marijuana and you have no idea how it got in your bag. You are now facing marijuana trafficking charges in Clayton County, Georgia.
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.
Although the above sentences are described as “mandatory minimum prison” sentences, there are a few limited ways in which someone convicted of marijuana 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).
If you have been arrested in Clayton County for marijuana trafficking at Hartsfield-Jackson airport, 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
Our firm can get the prosecutor to consent to a bond in the case if you have ties to the community and meet the above factors. In Clayton County, bonds for trafficking range from $50,000 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).
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 speak with the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to discuss a resolution. IF a resolution cannot be reached, then we will schedule the case for a motions hearing and jury trial.
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.