Drug crimes can be simple or very complicated. Because of the serious consequences, they all require experienced legal representation. In Georgia, drug crimes are often called VGCSA. This acronym stands for Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act. That designation can encompass everything from the lowliest marijuana case to the most serious trafficking or manufacturing charge.
Drug Related Objects
One of the broader criminal statutes is the definition of drug related objects.
First, the object can be a machine, instrument, tool, equipment, contrivance or device.
Second, that object would be one which the average person would reasonably conclude is intended to be used for one or more of the following:
- to introduce an illegal controlled substance or dangerous drug into the human body
- to enhance the effect of an illegal controlled substance or dangerous drug on the human body
- to conceal a quantity of an illegal dangerous drug or controlled substance
- to test the strength, effectiveness or purity of any illegal dangerous drug or controlled substance
The statute could be applied to a wide variety of things.
Considering just introduction to the human body, it could possibly include rolling papers, blunts, glass pipes, pipes, hypodermic needles, glass straws, straws, hookahs, bongs, vaporizers, electronic cigarettes and many more. Many of those can be lawfully possessed and used for legal substances.
Many "head shops" sell stash items where drugs or paraphernalia can be placed in a hidden compartment. Those might legally be used to stash money, jewelry, etc.
Finally, field test kits or reagent packs can be used to test the strength or purity of drugs. However, there are legal reasons to possess such items as well.
The application of the statute to a particular item will turn greatly on the evidence that it was used or was intended to be used for illegal purposes. Even so, the statute is very vague, and prior versions of the statute have been challenged for unconstitutional vagueness.
Controlled Substances and Dangerous Drugs
There are a wide variety of medications and street drugs as well as precursor chemicals included within the schedules of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
Schedule 1 includes drugs which are considered highly addictive and without accepted medical usage. This includes heroin and LSD and other serious drugs. Controversially, it still includes marijuana. There is an exception with regard to marijuana which can drastically lower the consequences of less than an ounce of marijuana.
Schedule 2 includes drugs which have a medical use but are consider highly addictive.
The other schedules and the list of dangerous drugs include medications and drugs which are less addictive or which are less subject to abuse.
Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is considered to be a misdemeanor in Georgia under OCGA 16-13-2. In addition, a first drug offense, whether a misdemeanor or a felony can be handled through a conditional discharge plea which can result in dismissal and restriction of the record.
It is important to note, however, that the misdemeanor provision regarding marijuana applies only to green leafy material.
It is becoming more common to see "edibles," oils, wax and other forms of marijuana. Those substances, whether more or less than 1 ounce of marijuana, are considered to be felonies, unless the officer wants to give you a significant break.
A misdemeanor marijuana offense can be punished by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. It can also be punished by 12 months of public works, which I have never seen imposed.
Purchase, Possession or Control of Controlled Substances
In Georgia, it is a crime to purchase controlled substances. The act of engaging in a drug transaction by both buyer and seller is a crime.
It is also a crime to be in possession of controlled substances or to knowingly have control of controlled substances.
In some cases, officers will charge a person with possessing or being in control of controlled substances where drugs are found near the person or in a car, home or room occupied by the person. That can allow defense of the case based on whether the person was knowing in possession or control of the substances.
Where these acts are not associated with evidence that the person was engaged in the sale of drugs, the case may be referred to as simple possession of the substance.
Simple possession can carry lesser consequences than more serious "possession with intent," manufacturing and trafficking cases.
Manufacture, Deliver, Distribute, Dispense, Administer, Sell or Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance
The next step up from simple possession includes the acts or manufacturing, delivering, distributing, dispensing, administering, selling or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
The most common manufacturing cases in rural northeast Georgia are growing marijuana and making methamphetamine or crack cocaine.
Sale of a substance is usually associated with a transaction occurring under surveillance.
Possession with intent to distribute is based on additional evidence beyond mere possession. It can be associated with weight considered to be beyond personal use, records of transactions, supplies to divide up and package the drugs, scales, etc.
The scales issue is particularly concerning since it is not unusual for users to have a small set of digital scales to make sure that they are receiving the quantity bargained for. On the other hand, that iota of caution could result in the person being charged with a more serious offense.
In general, this level of offense will be punished more severely than simple possession but less severely than trafficking. The exception to this is methamphetamine. Methamphetamine manufacturing can be punished as trafficking.
Trafficking, in Georgia, is simply a more serious offense based solely on the quantity of the drugs involved. This is typically broken into three quantity levels.
These levels are expressed in grams for everything but marijuana. It is worth exploring those numbers. Depending on the substance, the cutoffs are 14 grams, 28 grams, 200 grams, and 400 grams.
A teaspoon is 4.2 grams.
For morphine or opium, or certain derivatives, the first cutoff is 14 grams. That is the equivalent of a little over 3 teaspoons, or 1 tablespoon.
For cocaine and methamphetamine, the first cutoff is 28 grams. That's two tablespoons, or about an eighth of a cup. For cocaine, however, it is based on purity. Anything over 28 grams of pure cocaine is trafficking. So, if someone has a mixture containing fifty percent cocaine, they would have to have twice as much to make the cutoff. For methamphetamine, it is much stricter on the possessor. If the person has a mixture that is 20% methamphetamine, the full mass of the mixture still counts toward the cutoff.
200 grams is similar to a cup. 400 grams would be two cups. So, it does not take a very large quantity to find oneself looking at a trafficking charge.
For law enforcement and prosecutors, though, 200 grams sounds a lot more serious than a cup. 28 grams sounds more serious than a tablespoon or one ounce.
Marijuana, on the other hand, is measured in ounces and pounds. Why? No one knows. I guess the numbers get too big. It takes slightly more than 10 pounds to draw a trafficking charge. Between 10 and 2,000 pounds is trafficking level one. Trafficking level two goes from 2,000 to 10,000 pounds. Anything over 10,000 pounds is level three.
Trafficking charges are subject to mandatory minimum sentences and carry massive minimum fines going from $100,000 up.
Defense of the Drug Case
Experienced attorneys will analyze every aspect of a drug case. How did law enforcement come to have contact with the client? How and why did a search occur? What evidence ties the contraband to the client? Were any statements made? Should the client have been advised of his or her rights? Are there communications records or recordings that tie the client to the offense? Were those records or recordings properly obtained. Did other persons have equal access to the contraband?
Sean Black has decades of experience handling, defending, trying and negotiating drug cases. He knows the traps laid by prosecutors in negotiations and the consequences of convictions. We regularly handle all levels of drug offenses.