Possession of marijuana in Georgia
Although it is a relatively less dangerous drug than some of the others that share its classification, possession of marijuana in Georgia still comes with harsh sentences and penalties if convicted.
Not only could you face jail time and hefty fines, a conviction could have unintended consequences. This can include being unable to pursue certain professional occupations, being ineligible for admission to specific higher education programs, and losing the right to receive certain types of government assistance that so many rely on.
Understanding the laws and procedure regarding marijuana possession is the first step in preventing this problem from becoming a major long-term problem in your life. Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a strong defense approach to this matter can help you get the charges reduced or possibly dismissed.
OCGA §16-13-2 states that possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. In certain cases, a person may be eligible to perform community service for up to 12 months. Alternatively, a first-time offender may also be eligible for deferred adjudication or probation pursuant to OCGA § 16-13-2(a).
If you are allegedly found in possession of an ounce or more of marijuana, you will likely be charged with a felony, which carries a presumptive sentence of one to ten years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
The State of Georgia distinguishes between different “types” of possession. Under Georgia code, the alleged perpetrator must be in actual or constructive possession of marijuana to be charged.
• Actual possession – usually means the marijuana was in the alleged offender’s hand, on their body, on their clothing, or in close proximity to them.
• Constructive possession – generally means that the alleged offender was able to gain control of the marijuana, had the intent to actually possess the marijuana, and knew the marijuana was in their presence. Because of all the requirements necessary to convict on a constructive basis, this charge is much more difficult to prosecute.
Although seemingly unrelated to the alleged crime, the state of Georgia also requires that if you are convicted of possession of marijuana, your license will also be suspended (OCGA 40-5-75). Presumably, you will receive a 180-day driver’s license suspension for a first conviction, a one-year suspension for a second conviction, and five years for a third conviction. No matter what the situation, you also cannot apply for a restricted or difficult driving permit. As for getting your license reinstated, you will need to complete a drug risk reduction program and pay a $200 reinstatement fee.
With the large amount of negative consequences that develop after a marijuana possession conviction, an effective defense strategy is vital to avoiding these extremely punitive and anxiety-inducing sentences. If you choose to work with a Georgia criminal defense attorney, it is best to do so as soon as possible. This allows your attorney to conduct the necessary independent investigation, consult with witnesses and experts, or gather time-sensitive information.
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