Two men were pulled over in a routine traffic stop with the Georgia State Patrol in Gwinnett County last week. During the stop, the GSP officers seized $200,000 in cash and around a half of a kilogram of heroin. From there, they were led to a stash house where they found another $50,000 in cash, 25 kilos of heroin, 2 kilos of meth, 2 kilos of cocaine, and a couple of automatic weapons.
Miguel Carahure-Guzman and Armando Lando-Hernandez face multiple charges of possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances in Georgia, including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
But what exactly is a charge of possession with the intent to distribute in Georgia?
In order to answer this question, we should analyze the different possession charges in Georgia and clarify the differences. First, let's look at the Controlled Substances Act. In Georgia, there are five different schedules of controlled substances.
- Schedule I: heroin, LSD, mushrooms, MDMA (most dangerous)
- Schedule II: cocaine, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, opium, codeine, morphine, ketamine, fentanyl
- Schedule III: steroids, CNS depressants or stimulants, some barbiturates
- Schedule IV: Xanax, Valium, Diazepam, Klonopin, Ambien
- Schedule V: drugs that must be lawfully prescribed, but have potential for abuse (least dangerous)
Possession of a Schedule I or II Controlled Substance in Georgia
According to Georgia law, “it is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his or her control any controlled substance.” O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(a). As Schedule I and II drugs are considered the most dangerous controlled substances in Georgia, the punishment for possession is severe. The crime is considered a felony, and the punishment includes a prison term of 5 to 30 years. A second offense means a prison term of 10 to 40 years or a possible life sentence.
Possession of a Schedule I or II Drug with Intent to Distribute in Georgia
According to Georgia law, “it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, sell, or possess with intent to distribute any controlled substance.” O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30(b). The crime of possession of a Schedule I and II with intent to distribute is classified as a felony. The punishment includes imprisonment of 5 to 30 years. However, a second offender will be punished with a sentence to prison for 10 to 40 years or even a possibility of life in prison.
Trafficking a Schedule I or II Drug in Georgia
Being charged with trafficking a schedule I or II drug has severe consequences. The difference between possession, selling, and manufacturing drugs from trafficking is determined by the amount actually seized. Twenty-eight grams is the dividing line according to O.C.G.A. §16-13-31. The determinations are as follows:
- 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams is a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years and a fine of $200,000
- 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams is a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of $300,000
- 400 grams or more, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years and a fine of $1,000,000
According to the statutes, Carahure-Guzman and Lando-Hernandez are most likely facing trafficking charges in Georgia as a result of the amount seized by law enforcement.
As an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I am extremely skeptical when I see serious drug charges given to two people who appear to be low-level drug dealers. Technically, the charges against them may be appropriate. However, the police rarely get the true drug traffickers - the people who are the real suppliers here. The drug trafficking laws were designed to imprison and penalize high-level drug traffickers. In practice, we imprison “street-level” dealers. This was not the purpose of the law.