Although several states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, it remains illegal under both Federal and Georgia law. Simple possession of marijuana may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending upon the amount of marijuana found.
One of most common drug charges that I see as a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is that of Possession of Marijuana – Less than One Ounce. The code section governing this charge is O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2(b), which classifies possession of less than one ounce as a misdemeanor. This means that the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge is a 12-month period of imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.
Conviction of a drug-related charge, even a comparatively minor one such as Marijuana Possession – Less than One Once, can make your life very difficult. For example, it may impair your ability to get a job or to get or retain security clearance, as it will show up on a background check.
Because of this, you should be sure to hire a Georgia Attorney with experience fighting these kinds of cases. While many possession cases seem simple, in reality, many are quite complex. For example, many marijuana cases originate from searches conducted by the police. In search cases, the police have certain rules that they must follow under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The rules can be complex and there are a multitude of exceptions to the rules. Frequently in marijuana cases, the police conduct (either intentionally or unintentionally) searches that violate the 4th Amendment. An attorney who is well-versed in these kinds of cases will be able to conduct an investigation and file the appropriate motions with the court, potentially resulting in suppression of evidence or even the dismissal of your case.
Even if you think it unlikely that your case is “winnable,” it is still important to ensure that you hire an attorney who knows how to work drug cases, because even at the sentencing phase of the case, you may have options that can keep your record clean.
First, O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2 provides for something called “Conditional Discharge.” Under this part of the statute, a person who has not previously been convicted of a drug offense may enter a guilty plea to possession of marijuana — less than one ounce. After such a guilty plea, the Court may place the individual on probation without entering a judgment of guilt. The court may require that certain conditions be met – for example, medical treatment, drug and alcohol awareness classes, community service, etc. After the probation term has run and after the individual has completed all conditions of supervision, the court will dismiss the case. This means that the individual may maintain a clean criminal record. However, if the individual fails to comply with the terms of supervision or picks up a new charge, the conditional discharge may be withdrawn and a conviction would be entered on the person’s record.
Another option may be something called Pre-trial Diversion (PTD) or Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). These options are even better than Conditional Discharge, as they do not even require that an individual enter a guilty plea. Typically, they are administered through the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction in which you have been charged. Normally, your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney would negotiate certain terms with the prosecutor. They may include some community service work, an alcohol/drug awareness class, and/or a period of sobriety. Once those terms are met, the prosecutor dismisses the case. These options are not available in all jurisdictions and are reserved for people with no criminal history.
These are both good options for individuals charged with possession of marijuana – less than one ounce, and you should be sure to discuss them with your Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, call me for a free consultation and we will discuss your options.