Aggressive, Compassionate, & Responsive Criminal Defense

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Possession and Distribution of Controlled Substances

Laws prohibiting the possession, sale, or distribution of drugs, including marijuana, are codified as the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (“the Act”). The Act categorizes drugs into five groups, or “schedules.”

  • Schedule I, according to the law, are drugs that have no current medically accepted use, including MDMA (Ecstasy), heroin (and other opium derivatives), synthetic or natural marijuana derivatives, LSD, and many others.
  • Schedule II drugs include substances that have a recognized medical use, but only under severe restrictions due to their high potential for abuse and dependence, such as oxycodone and other opiates. For sentencing purposes, some of these are considered to be narcotics, while others are non-narcotics.
  • Schedules III, IV, and V encompass a broad range of drugs with lower potentials for abuse, and which may be possessed when lawfully prescribed, such as Xanax and Valium.

Illegal possession of any of these drugs is a felony and can result in serious prison time. You may hear these referred to as “VGCSA,” or “Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.” 

Further, although marijuana in its pure form is not technically a “scheduled” drug, possession of more than one ounce of it is also a felony (for information about possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, see here). Possession, distribution, and sale of counterfeit substances are also criminalized under the statute.

Sentencing for Violations of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act

The law includes mandatory minimum sentences that vary depending on the schedule of the drug and whether the charged individual has prior charges. See O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30. Penalties are also higher for individuals convicted of manufacturing, delivering, distributing, administering, selling, or possessing with intent to distribute any controlled substance. Possession of sufficient quantities of certain drugs (cocaine, morphine, and opium, for example) will result in trafficking charges (see here for more information).

Below is a breakdown of the sentencing guidelines for many drug possession and distribution charges.  All information was taken from O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30. This list, however, is not exhaustive, and you should always speak to a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney before going to court on drug charges.

Offense ClassificationSentencing Range
Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance or a Schedule II Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· Less than 1 gram (solid);

· Less than 1 milliliter (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of less than 1 gram
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of three (3) years
Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance or a Schedule II Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· 1-4 grams (solid);

· 1-4 milliliters (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of 1-4 grams
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of eight (8) years
Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance or a Schedule II Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· 4-28 grams (solid);

· 4-28 milliliters (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of 4-28 grams

Note that this section specifically exempts morphine, heroin, opium, or several other substances, which are charged under O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31, the trafficking statute.
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of fifteen (15) years
Manufacturing, delivering, distributing, dispensing, administering, selling, or possessing with intent to distribute of a Schedule I or II controlled substance – First OffenseFELONYMandatory minimum of five (5) years, and maximum of thirty (30) years
Manufacturing, delivering, distributing, dispensing, administering, selling, or possessing with intent to distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance – Second or Subsequent OffenseFELONYMandatory minimum of ten (10) years, and
maximum of forty (40) years
Possession of a Schedule II Non-Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· Less than 2 grams (solid);

· Less than 2 milliliters (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of less than 2 grams
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and
maximum of three (3) years
Possession of a Schedule II Non-Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· 2-4 grams (solid);

· 2-4 milliliters (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of 2-4 grams
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of eight (8) years
Possession of a Schedule II Non-Narcotic Drug in the following amount:

· 4-28 grams (solid);

· 4-28 milliliters (liquid); or

· If substance is placed onto a secondary medium with a combined weight of 4-28 grams
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of fifteen (15) years
Possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II Controlled Substance or Possession, Distribution, Manufacture, or sale of a Counterfeit substance – Third or Subsequent OffenseFELONYNot more than twice the length of the sentence applicable to the particular crime
Possession of a Counterfeit substanceFELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of two (2) years
Sale, manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of a Counterfeit substance FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of ten (10) years
Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance – First or Second OffenseFELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of three (3) years*

*Exceptions with regards to flunitrazepam
Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance – Third or Subsequent OffenseFELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of five (5) years*

*Exceptions with regards to flunitrazepam
Sale, manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substanceFELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of ten (10) years
Possession, manufacture, delivery, distribution, purchasing, selling or possessing with intent to distribute marijuana*

*Except for Possession of Marijuana – Less than One Ounce, which is covered by O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2.
FELONYMandatory minimum of one (1) year, and maximum of ten (10) years

Simple Possession vs. Possession With Intent to Distribute

It is important to know the difference between simple possession and possession with intent to distribute. Simple possession means that the person merely has a quantity of an illegal substance in their possession. Possession with intent to distribute means that the State must prove, based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the possession, that the person intended to supply the drugs to another person or persons. This charge is particularly tricky because the mandatory minimum sentences for possession with intent to distribute are longer than those for simple possession. But overzealous police and prosecutors frequently charge Possession with Intent to Distribute with little to no evidence to support the higher charge. It is incredibly important that, if you are charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute, you hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney who is experienced in handling drug cases. You should also be sure to tell your lawyer all the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest, as they can make a huge difference.

Why you need a lawyer if you have been charged with a felony drug charge

If you have been charged with Possession, Distribution, Sale, Manufacture, or Possession with Intent to Distribute of an illegal substance in Georgia, you should speak to a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Look back up at the sentencing chart above. Notice that the law gives judges a wide range of options with regards to the amount of time he or she can sentence an individual to in a drug case. Hiring the right Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer can make a huge difference and can result in a sentence on the lower end of the sentencing range. Not only can the right lawyer find the best defenses in your case, but he can also effectively advocate on your behalf during negotiations and during sentencing proceedings.

You should never go to court on a drug case alone. Call today for a free consultation.


Drug Offenses
Possession of Marijuana – Less than One Ounce
Possession and Distribution of Controlled Substances
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Possession of Drug Related Objects
DUI – Marijuana
DUI – Prescription Drugs
DUI –Drugs
Trafficking
Possession of Controlled Substances in School Zone
Possession of Controlled Substances in Housing Project
Possession of Controlled Substances in Drug-Free Zone
Drug Cases in Juvenile Court

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Writer

Kevin Fisher


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