The only real misdemeanor drug charge in Georgia law is misdemeanor marijuana possession. Everything else is considered a felony, and a simple possession is one- to three-years felony for pretty much any schedule drug. Marijuana possession is a misdemeanor for less than an ounce, and marijuana is increasingly becoming something that can be handled very easily by an experienced attorney without even going to court half of the time.
Is Drug Possession Always a Felony Under Georgia Law?
For pretty much anything but marijuana, yes!
In Preparing a Defense for My Drug Charge Case, What Is Important Information That I Should Share With My Defense Attorney?
You should be able to answer questions such as: Where did they find the drugs? Did they find any drugs on your person? Were you searched? When were you searched? Did they arrest you before they searched you? Was that in a house, a car, a hotel room? (Those are the three locations where most people receive drug possession charges.) If there were people in the car, house, or hotel room, how many people were there? Did they all have access to the drugs? If you are claiming that those drugs belong to another individual, is that person willing to testify that those are their drugs?
Finally, the most important question in any single case: What did you tell the police? Whatever you told the police will be on video, so there’s no reason to hide information. Just tell me what you told them.
What Are Some Potential Defenses That Can Be Effective in Defending Felony Drug Charges?
If there were other people who had equal access to the drugs, we could say that they weren’t the defendant’s drugs. Especially if the drugs weren’t found exclusively close to the client, we can sometimes win those cases on a search because they searched beyond what the Fourth Amendment allows.
At What Point in My Drug Case Will a Prosecutor Generally Offer a Plea Deal? What Might a Deal Look Like for First-Time or Second-Time Offenders in Georgia?
The prosecutor will offer deals early on. Hopefully, you’re not in jail at the time. If you are in jail, you’ve probably got a bigger problem anyway, which is to say you are well into your criminal career. If I’m your attorney and you’re a first- or second-time offender, I will try to get you a First Offender, which is a statutory way of getting rid of a felony by entering the three years of probation on a non-adjudicated felony. If we’re successful, your records will be restricted, and you won’t have a felony on your record. There’s also a first-time drug offense statute that you can use in conjunction with and separate from the First Offender, meaning you can theoretically get two bites out of your first charge if you’ve got a lawyer who can get the prosecutors to agree to that. First- and second-offense simple possession charges can typically be handled, but once you start getting up there in charges, it’s harder to do. You can only use First Offender and the drug statute once each before you start hitting the penalties.
Do You Ever Advise Your Clients to Start Any Sort of Counseling Programs While Their Drug-Related Case Is Ongoing? Could That Help in My Defense?
I always tell clients that if they need treatment, then they should go get the treatment. I don’t tell people to do this for the sake of the case because, frankly, seeking treatment makes you look guilty. If you need treatment though, you should get it.
Now if you’re somebody who’s on your third, fourth, or even fifth charge, you need treatment. There is no argument about it, and you won’t convince me otherwise. The court will expect you to be in treatment at that point.
For a first-time DUI case, getting treatment in addition to completing your DUI School is not really going to help you or put you in a better position than anybody else. It’s only when you’ve received several DUIs that a defendant will be required to get treatment.
What Criteria Do You Consider When Deciding to Advise Your Client on Going to Trial or Not?
In a drug case, my decision will most likely hinge on how good the search was and whether the lab came back for drugs. If the search was good and the lab came back for drugs, then going to trial is most likely not the smartest thing to do. I’ll leave it up to the defendant on whether they want to go to trial on a drug charge, but that can be an easy decision to make if the other side’s got the evidence.
There are treatment options, drug courts, and other things you can take advantage of that keep you out of jail for drugs. What lawyers try to do is stop you from getting your first felony. Once you’ve gotten your first felony, everything else is jail management, meaning your lawyer is just trying to keep you out of jail at that point.
If my client decides to go to trial, I’ll give them an open, truthful view of what is going to happen in that jury trial. I’ll discuss with them how the testimonies will go and what the evidence will be. Then, I just step back and tell them if they want to go to trial, it’s up to them. I’ll try anybody’s case because it’s their right under the Constitution to have a jury trial.
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