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Georgia Drug Trafficking Charges
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.
Penalties for Georgia Drug Trafficking Charges
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.
Methamphetamines / Amphetamines
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.
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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