Trafficking

Trafficking in Controlled Substances

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31 and O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31.1 criminalize the sale, manufacturing, delivery, or transportation into the state of controlled substances.  They also criminalize the mere possession of larger quantities of certain controlled substances, picking up where O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30 left off.  This means that, contrary to common belief, one need not actually be transporting controlled substances to get hit with a trafficking charge.

All trafficking offenses are felonies, and they all carry mandatory minimum sentences.  These mandatory minimums are based on the amount of the controlled substance in the person’s possession, and they are quite severe.

Mandatory Minimums for Trafficking Offenses

Substance Amount Mandatory Minimum
Cocaine (with a purity of 10% or more of cocaine) At least 28 grams but less than 200 grams 10 years

$200,000 fine

 

Cocaine (with a purity of 10% or more of cocaine) At least 200 grams but less than 400 grams 15 years

$300,000 fine

 

Cocaine (with a purity of 10% or more of cocaine) 400+ grams 25 years

$1 million fine

 

Morphine

Opium

Heroin

At least 4 grams but less than 14 grams 5 years

$50,000 fine

Morphine

Opium

Heroin

At least 14 grams but less than 28 grams 10 years

$100,000 fine

Morphine

Opium

Heroin

28+ grams 25 years

$500,000 fine

Marijuana At least 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds 5 years

$100,000 fine

Marijuana At least 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds 7 years

$250,000 fine

Marijuana 10,000+ pounds 15 years

$1 million fine

Methaqualone or any mixture containing methaqualone 400+ grams 15 years

$250,000 fine

Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing methamphetamine or amphetamine

At least 28 grams but less than 200 grams 10 years

$200,000 fine

Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing methamphetamine or amphetamine

At least 200 grams but less than 400 grams 15 years

$300,000 fine

Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing methamphetamine or amphetamine

400+ grams 25 years

$1 million fine

3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine  3, 4-methylenedioxymetham-
phetamineAny mixture containing 3, 4-methylenedioxyam
phetamine or 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
At least 28 grams but less than 200 grams 3 years but not more than 30 years

Fine of at least $25,000 but not more than $250,000

3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine  3, 4-methylenedioxymetham-
phetamineAny mixture containing 3, 4-methylenedioxyam
phetamine or 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
At least 200 grams but less than 400 grams At least 5 years but not more than 30 years

Fine of at least $50,000 but not more than $250,000

3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine  3, 4-methylenedioxymetham-
phetamineAny mixture containing 3, 4-methylenedioxyam
phetamine or 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
400+ grams At least 10 years but not more than 30 years

Fine of at least $100,000 but not more than $250,000

Methamphetamines

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31 also covers the manufacture of methamphetamine or amphetamine, and any mixture containing either substance and lays out the mandatory minimum sentences for this offense, which are also based on the amount manufactured/possessed.

Manufacture of Methamphetamines

Substance Amount Mandatory Minimum
Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing either substance

Less than 200 grams 10 years

$200,000 fine

Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing either substance

More than 200 grams but less than 400 grams 15 years

$300,000 fine

Methamphetamine

Amphetamine

Any mixture containing either substance

More than 400 grams 25 years

$1 million fine

So why is it so important to have an attorney if you are facing a trafficking charge?

District Attorneys are given the discretion to move for a departure from the mandatory minimums for certain individuals convicted of trafficking charges.  This may occur in cases where individuals provide “substantial assistance” in the identification, arrest or conviction of accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or principals.  Motions for departure from mandatory minimums under this provision and made by the State and may be heard by judges in camera, meaning in private.  After hearing the motion, the judge decides whether the information provided is sufficient to warrant a suspended or reduced sentence.

A Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney with substantial experience handling drug cases, and particularly who has worked with informants, is the best person to talk to about your options here.  Because jurisdictions and judges vary, your attorney can best advise you about the chances of avoiding a harsh mandatory minimum sentence by offering assistance to the state.  Your attorney can also discuss the potential risks of doing so.

The statute also gives judges some discretion to depart from the mandatory minimums if:

  • The defendant was not a leader of the criminal conduct;
  • The defendant did not possess or use a firearm, dangerous weapon, or hazardous object during the crime;
  • The criminal conduct did not result in a death or serious bodily injury to a person other than to a person who is a party to the crime;
  • The defendant has no prior felony conviction; and
  • The interests of justice will not be served by the imposition of the prescribed mandatory minimum sentence.

Judges may also depart from the mandatory minimums when the prosecuting attorney and the defense agree to a sentence that is below the mandatory minimum.  The importance of retaining a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney who is a skilled negotiator and who knows the prosecutors in your jurisdiction cannot be overstated.  Many prosecutors in Georgia believe that mandatory minimums are appropriate for trafficking charges.  It is important to have an attorney who can convince the prosecutor that the law is not one-size-fits-all, and that you deserve the best deal possible.

If you have been charged with trafficking or manufacturing controlled substances, contact me today for a free consultation.

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