Have you Been Charged with Trafficking Cocaine in Georgia?
The Office of Lawson and Berry and their team of Cocaine Lawyers can help if you or a loved one has been charged with trafficking cocaine. Remember, a charge is not the same as a conviction, so it is vital to your case to get a lawyer that is knowledgeable in the field of cocaine. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Cocaine is part of the Schedule II drug/controlled substances in Georgia, which also include methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, opium, and methadone. Being charged with trafficking cocaine is not merely a slap on the wrist; it can have serious consequences. The difference between possession, selling, and manufacturing cocaine from trafficking is simply the amount of cocaine. 28 grams was chosen as the dividing line and crossing that threshold has grave consequences. That is why it is vital to have an understanding and knowledgeable Attorney to help you with your case. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Cocaine 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 Law on Trafficking Cocaine
O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31(a) defines the crime of trafficking cocaine as when a person sells, manufactures, grows, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is in possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine or of any mixture with a purity of 10 percent or more of cocaine.
Georgia Case Law
In the case of Martinez v. State, a suspect was convicted of trafficking cocaine in violation of O.C.G.A. §16-13-31(a). 259 Ga. App. 402. A confidential informant arranged for an Investigator to buy 17 ounces of cocaine from the suspect. The Investigator met the suspect at a restaurant and told the suspect that he wanted to see the drugs before he would hand over the money. After seeing the drugs, the Investigator signaled the rest of the officers and the suspect was apprehended. The officers found more cocaine in the floorboard of the suspect's car and the amount totaled over 450 grams. The entire transaction was videotaped, and the defendant was convicted at trial.
What Has to be Proven for a Conviction
To be guilty of trafficking cocaine, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is unlawful for any person to traffic cocaine; therefore, the State would have to present evidence showing how the cocaine was being trafficked and that a suspect was in possession of more than 28 grams of cocaine.
Penalty for a Trafficking Cocaine Conviction in Georgia
The penalty for trafficking cocaine coincides with the amount of cocaine seized at the time of the charge. If there is 28 grams or more involved, but less than 200 grams, the penalty will be a mandatory prison term of at least ten years and a fine of $200,000.00. OC.G.A. § 16-13-31(a)(1)(A). An amount of cocaine between 200 grams and 400 grams will receive the consequence of a mandatory prison sentence of at least fifteen years and a fine of $350,000.00. O.C.G.A. §16-13-3(a)(1)(B). For any amount of cocaine above 400 grams, the penalty is a mandatory prison term of at least twenty-five years with a fine of $1 million. O.C.G.A. §16-13-31(a)(1)(C).
However, there are ways in which you could receive less than the mandatory minimum sentence. One way a sentence could be reduced is by assisting in the identification, arrest, or conviction of other individuals involved in the drug operation. O.C.G.A. §16-13-31(g)(1). By providing assistance in those areas, your Attorney could ask the Court to reduce your sentence based on your support. A judge could also depart from the mandatory minimum sentence if it is proven that
- the suspect was not a leader of the criminal conduct;
- did not possess a firearm, dangerous weapon, or hazardous object during the crime;
- or the conduct did not result in death or serious bodily to a person other than to a person who is a party to the crime;
- there was no prior felony conviction; and
- justice would not be served by the imposition of the prescribed mandatory minimum sentence. O.C.G.A. §16-13-31(g)(2).
One factor that may increase a prison sentence is whether a minor was involved. If a person under the age of 21 years participates in the sale or manufacturing of cocaine, then the crime is automatically elevated to a felony and will be punished by a prison term of five to twenty years and/or a fine up to $20,000. O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(k).
There are several options your Georgia Cocaine Lawyer can use on your behalf. Many courts offer the possibility of Drug Court. Under this program, participants go through mandatory treatment, frequent drug testing, and other program requirements. All though the program is strict, successful completion will result in the dismissal of the felony drug charge.
Many courts also allow for a defendant to plead guilty under the First Offender Act. This means if the defendant completes the sentence successfully without reoffending or violating probation, the will receive a discharge and acquittal of the charge. The decision to allow someone to plea under First Offender Status is up to the Judge's discretion. It is vital to have an experienced attorney available to help you determine whether pursuing a first offender plea is the best decision in your case.
Defenses to Trafficking Cocaine in Georgia
Illegal means: If the methods used to suppress the cocaine were unconstitutional, then any evidence obtained will not be allowed in Court. Your Attorney can help you evaluate your case and see if police officers conducted the investigation legally.
I was not the leader of the activity: As described earlier, certain factors can help reduce your sentence. Not being the leader of the criminal conduct along with not possessing a firearm and other things can help you obtain a lesser sentence. It is important to let your Lawyer know all the details of your case so they can use these defenses.
I didn't have possession: Courts have found that the mere fact that a defendant is traveling with someone who is convicted of trafficking cocaine does not establish that the defendant is a party to the crime of possession even if the defendant may have known that their companion was carrying drugs. Haxho v. State, 186 Ga. App. 393, (1984).
The amount was incorrect: If you can prove that the amount seized was less than the amount you are charged with, then you would be eligible to have the charged reduced or receive a lesser sentence. Mistakes happen, and the amount of cocaine found has a severe impact on your case.
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.
I should not be convicted of both manufacturing cocaine and trafficking cocaine: Because the same evidence is used to prove both crimes, the crime of manufacturing cocaine should merge into a conviction for cocaine. Therefore, you should not be guilty of both of those crimes unless there are exigent circumstances.
What are not Defenses
Lack of possession: Courts look at whether a person had actual or constructive possession. Actual possession means that a person has the cocaine either on them or in their proximity. Constructive possession means that the cocaine was in an area where the person exercises dominion or control over. Therefore, even if you do not have the cocaine directly on your person, you can still be guilty of cocaine if it was in an area under your control. In sum, either actual or constructive possession will suffice to establish the element of possession necessary to support a conviction of trafficking in a controlled substance. Gamble v. State, 223 Ga. App. 653, (1996).
Lack of Intent: There is no requirement in the statute that a suspect must have the intent to traffick cocaine. Therefore, it will not matter if Court whether or not you intended to commit the crime.
It wasn't pure cocaine: The crime of trafficking in cocaine is committed whether or not the cocaine is delivered in a pure form or whether the cocaine is present in a mixture that contains other substances. The only requirement is that the quantity of the substance containing cocaine must be greater than 28 grams. Godett v. State, 205 Ga. App. 545, (1992).
Georgia Trafficking Cocaine Lawyers will help you understand your options and will assist you with your case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Georgia Cocaine lawyers, contact the Law Office of Lawson and Berry. 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 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. Your future is at stake; do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.