In the recent case of Beard v. State decided October 19, 2012, the Georgia Court of Appeals considered whether the State had proven the intent to distribute element. In this case, the defendant was found to be in possession of five baggies of marijuana, each weighing about 28 grams or one ounce. The state argued that the possession of multiple baggies suggested the intent to sell or distribute the drugs. The evidence suggested that this was $500 to $600 worth of marijuana.
The court found that the State did not prove that the possession of the drugs was linked to an enterprise or intent to sell. There was no evidence that the defendant possessed scales or other paraphernalia consistent with intent to sell. There was also no evidence of any large amounts of cash found on the defendant or in his car or apartment, which were all searched.
The focus on evidence of paraphernalia is of some concern because it is not unusual for users of marijuana to have scales and other paraphernalia. A user might have scales to verify that he is being sold the quantity promised. A user might have grinders, bongs, papers, other smoking devices or other paraphernalia consistent with use. It would seem that the more appropriate evidence related to proof of intent to sale would be records relating to transactions or large amounts of cash. The court did not that other supporting evidence could have included evidence of prior drug sales or possession with intent to distribute.
In northeast Georgia, it is not unusual to see officers and prosecutors charge possession with intent to distribute for even very minor quantities of drugs. Such charging decisions can have a significant effect on punishment for the offense.
While this was not our case, we regularly represent those charged with even the most serious drug charges. Call us. We're ready to help.