Have you Been Charged with Possession of Marijuana in Georgia?
Lawson and Berry and their team of Possession of Marijuana Lawyers in Georgia can help if you or a loved one has been charged with possession of marijuana. Remember, a possession of marijuana charge is not the same as a conviction, so it is vital to your case to hire a lawyer that is knowledgeable in the field of marijuana possession.
Georgia Law on Possession of Marijuana
Marijuana is regulated under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. O.C.G.A. §16-13-1(a)(1) states that the term controlled substance shall include marijuana. Being charged with possession of marijuana is not merely a slap on the wrist; it can have grave consequences including consequences to your Georgia Drivers License. That is why it is vital to have an understanding and knowledgeable Attorney to help you with your case. The Office of Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Possession of Marijuana Attorneys will fight for you and try to help you avoid a criminal conviction. Do not wait to call; schedule a free consultation today.
Georgia is one of the states that have specific statutes that regulate marijuana crimes. O.C.G.A. §16-13-30((j) states that it is unlawful for any person to possess, have under his or her control, manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, purchase, sell, or possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
The crime of possession of marijuana is a separate and distinct offense from the sale of marijuana. When dealing with drug-related offenses, the State must prove that you possessed the drug. There are two types of possession: actual and constructive. Actual possession occurs when the marijuana is found on your person like in your pocket or your purse. Constructive possession most commonly happens when the drugs are found in your home, vehicle, or at your business. The law assumes that you exercise dominion or control over these areas and that you are presumed owner/possessor of whatever is found in those areas.
A mother was convicted of possession of marijuana even though her son was the one who was selling it. Kirchner v. State, 322 Ga. App. 275, (2013). Police officers received a call one night from a neighbor who stated that the accused had lots of cars parked at her house and on the road. When police arrived at the house, they saw some men leaving the house with brown paper bags. They could smell marijuana and asked the men what was in the bags. They opened the bags to reveal about eight ounces of marijuana. They arrested the two men and continued to the house. The accused came out of the house and identified herself as Debbie Kirchner and said the two men were her son's friends. The officer asked for permission to search the house and denied. After receiving a search warrant, the officers entered the house and found baggies of marijuana in numerous places. They noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from the basement, and when asked about the smell, Kirchner replied that the smell had always been there, so she did not notice. During the trial, Kirchner tried to argue that there was insufficient evidence that she exercised dominion and control over the drugs. Kirchner claimed that her son had exclusive access to the safe containing the marijuana and that had no part in it. The Court found that there was open use of marijuana in the downstairs area and with the odor and frequency of visitors coming to see her son, the only way Kirchner could not have known what was going on is if she deliberately ignored the blatant evidence of the activities. Although she did not have any marijuana on her person, the Court found enough evidence to show that she was in constructive possession because the home belonged to her. In Georgia, there is a presumption of ownership and control when the defendant owns or resides in the premises. Therefore, she was found guilty of possession of marijuana.
What Must be Proven for a Conviction
To be guilty of possession of marijuana in Georgia, the State must prove 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 marijuana. 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 marijuana 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 marijuana that goes beyond mere spatial proximity.
Penalty for Possession of Marijuana in Georgia
The penalty for being caught with less than one ounce of marijuana is up to $1,000 in fines and/or a prison term of up to one year. O.C.G.A. §16-13-2(b). The crime will also be classified as a misdemeanor. However, the penalty for being caught with greater than one ounce of marijuana will be classified as a felony, and the consequences will include fines and possible confinement between one and ten years in prison.
For misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana charges, a plea of nolo contendere will be accepted by DDS once every 5 years to prevent the applicable license suspension. To qualify, you must be over the age of 16 and attend a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction program within 120 days of sentencing. A nolo contendere plea will be at the sole discretion of the judge in your case.
Alternatively, Georgia allows for conditional release 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 removed from the accused's record. Judges are more likely to order a conditional release if it is the first drug offense for the accused, and it is a relatively minor case. The conditions could include requiring the accused to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program or medical treatment.
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 in Georgia
I did not know that I possessed marijuana (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 marijuana was in the package, and you were caught speeding, and they discovered the marijuana. Your Georgia Possession of Marijuana Lawyer could use this evidence to prove that you did not intend to possess marijuana and help get the charge dismissed.
The police used an illegal stop: One defense available to you that your Possession of Marijuana Attorney in Georgia can investigate is whether the police conducted an illegal stop, detention, or search when they discovered the marijuana. 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 marijuana, then you have a defense that you did not possess it. Just being in proximity to marijuana is not enough to prove that you owned 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 car. He is sitting in the passenger seat and is unaware that there is marijuana under the seat. Just because the bag is found under the seat, he was sitting in does not prove that he possessed the drugs.
What are not Defenses
It belongs to someone else: Even if the marijuana does not directly belong to you, if you are caught in possession of it, you could be found guilty.
It was being used for medical reasons: Some states do allow for possession of marijuana for medical purposes but Georgia does not. Therefore, even if you came from another state where it was okay for you to possess the marijuana, you could still be convicted of the crime if you came into Georgia with it.
I did not know it was marijuana: While this can be used as a defense, if the accused knew that it could be marijuana 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 marijuana. However, he does not look inside the package to maintain innocence. This defense would not hold up in Court.
Our Georgia Possession of Marijuana 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 their team of possession of marijuana lawyers in Georgia, contact our offices today. Our Attorneys are dedicated to being accessible to their clients—days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on their behalf. Your Georgia Possession of Marijuana Attorney will make sure you understand all your options and the good and bad of each. Every possession of marijuana 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. Your future and ability to drive are at stake; do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.