Have you Been Charged with Possession of Cocaine in Georgia?
Georgia laws punish drug crimes heavily, especially cocaine. Possession, sale, manufacturing, and trafficking cocaine are all crimes in Georgia, and each has their specific penalties. It is important to have a Lawyer who knows the differences between each offense and how to successfully defend against them. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Cocaine Lawyers are here to help you defend against any cocaine charge that you have. A charge is not the same as a conviction so call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
Georgia Law on Possession of Cocaine
Cocaine is part of the Schedule II drug in Georgia, which is included in the same category as methamphetamine, crack cocaine, morphine, opium, and methadone. O.C.G.A. § 16-13-30(a) states that it is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his or her control any controlled substance.
A suspect was found guilty of possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Robertson v. State, 306 Ga. App. 721, (2010). In this case, an undercover officer used an informant to set up a meeting with a local drug dealer, the suspect. The officer met the suspect in a parking lot and handed him a $20.00 bill in attempts to buy a controlled substance from the suspect. The suspect gave him the cocaine and left the lot. Officers arrested the suspect soon after and they found a small bag containing three pieces of crack cocaine in the ashtray of the vehicle. The suspect tried to deny having any knowledge of the cocaine found in his car and argued that the crime of possession of cocaine should merge into the crime of possession with intent to distribute. However, the Court concluded that the suspect had knowledge of the cocaine and that because they were two separate incidents, the crimes did not merge.
What has to be Proven
To be guilty of possession of cocaine, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is unlawful for any person to possess a controlled substance in Georgia and therefore, the State must show that the accused possessed cocaine. As discussed earlier, the possession can be actual or constructive. If someone is not in actual possession, then a person who knowingly has both the power and the intention at a given time to exercise dominion or control over the cocaine will be deemed to be in constructive possession of it. To prove constructive possession, the State must establish a link between the suspect and the cocaine that goes beyond mere spatial proximity.
Penalty for Possession of Cocaine of Georgia
The penalty for being charged with possession of less than twenty-eight (28) grams of cocaine is a prison term of five to thirty years. The crime will be charged as a felony. However, a second or subsequent offense will face a penalty of prison for ten to forty years or possibly life in prison. O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(d). The consequences for being convicted of a felony can be detrimental. It can cause difficulty in obtaining a job or getting credit in the future.
Alternatively, Georgia allows for conditional releases or diversion programs for people facing their first criminal prosecution. A conditional release is a program similar to probation where you have conditions set by a judge that you must satisfy for the charges to be dropped. Judges are more likely to order a conditional release it is the first drug offense for the accused, and it is a relatively minor case. In these cases, the court will defer the case proceedings against a suspect and put them on probation for up to five years. The conditions could include requiring the accused to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program or medical treatment. The court proceedings will be dismissed if all the conditions are completed successfully. O.C.G.A. §§ 16-13-2(a),(c)
However, all drug possession cases will result in a mandatory suspension of your driver's license. If this is the first offense, then the suspension will last for a minimum of six months. If this is the second offense, the penalty is one-year suspension and a third or subsequent offense results in a minimum two-year suspension.
Defenses to Possession of Cocaine in Georgia
I did not know that I possessed cocaine (also known as unwitting possession): An example of this is if a friend asked you to drop off a package to another friend. You had no reason to suspect that cocaine was in the package, and you were caught speeding, and they discovered the cocaine. Your Georgia Cocaine Lawyer could use this evidence to prove that you did not intend to possess cocaine and help get the charge dismissed.
The police used an illegal stop: One defense available to you that your Lawyer can investigate is whether the police conducted an illegal, stop, detention, or search when they discovered the cocaine. Police officers must have a Constitutional basis for both stopping you and searching you. If the stop is found to be unconstitutional, then anything found as a result of the search will be suppressed. If that happens, your case will be dismissed based on a lack of evidence.
Lack of possession: If you are found in constructive possession of cocaine, then you have a defense that you did not possess it. Just being in proximity to cocaine is not enough to prove that you possessed it. The State must demonstrate that you possessed it even though you were not in direct proximity to it. An example of this is a person riding with two friends in a car. He is sitting in the passenger seat and is unaware that there is cocaine under the seat. Just because the bag is found under the seat, he was sitting in does not prove that he possessed the drugs.
Innocence: Witness testimony or an alibi can be used to help prove your innocence. If you have any of these things, contact one our Lawyers so they can help you try to get the charges dropped.
What are not Defenses
It belongs to someone else: Even if the cocaine does not directly belong to you, if caught in possession of it, you could be found guilty.
I did not know it was cocaine: While this can be used as a defense, if the accused knew that it could be cocaine in a package but did not look to have a defense if prosecuted, then they could still be found guilty of possession. An example is if a friend asks his neighbor to drop off a package for him. The neighbor is aware that the friend sometimes makes drug deals, and he suspects that the package contains cocaine. However, he does not look inside the package to maintain innocence. This defense would not hold up in Court.
Georgia Possession of Cocaine Lawyers will help you understand your options and will assist you with your case. To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Richard Lawson, Kimberly Berry or our team of Georgia Cocaine lawyers, contact one of our highly experienced Lawyers. Our Attorneys are dedicated to being accessible to their clients—days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on their behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all your options and the good and bad of each. Every possession of cocaine case is unique, and our Attorneys will work with you to formulate the best possible defense for your situation. They will advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Contact us today for your free case evaluation. Your future and ability to drive are at stake; do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.