For decades, drug possession has been a crime. Both federal laws in Georgia state statutes allow for the arrest and prosecution of those who possess certain drugs or play a role in their production or distribution. Yet, social attitudes toward drug use and drug offenses have changed in recent years. Awareness of what drives addiction and how little prohibition has curtailed drug use has led to reform in many states.
As a result, the average person may not take drug charges as seriously as they would have a few years ago. Charges that may seem minor to many people can still be a very big concern if the jurisdiction for the case is Georgia. Why are drug charges in Georgia specifically such a serious concern?
Georgia has very strict drug laws
Even when looking at the simplest offense possible, Georgia drug statutes are harsh when compared with the laws in other states. Possession offenses can very easily lead to felony charges instead of civil infractions or misdemeanor charges.
Both the weight of the drugs and the classification of the drugs under state law will influence what prosecutors do. Schedule I drugs are the most serious in the eyes of the law. They have no acknowledged medical use and pose a serious risk to the public. Schedule II and Schedule III drugs are also a serious public safety concern, they pose a risk of addiction or may generate significant side effects.
As such, state law permits prosecutors to bring felony charges for simple possession if the drug in question is a Schedule I, II or III substance. Any amount of heroin or narcotic pain relievers possessed without a doctor’s prescription would potentially lead to felony charges.
Prosecutors and law enforcement professionals will also often seek to bring the harshest charges possible. If someone has more than a small amount of a drug, the state may try to claim that they possessed those drugs with the intent to sell them to others.
Finally, it is very difficult to expunge or seal records related to drug offenses in Georgia if it is a felony or they re-offend. Not only will someone face major penalties depending on the charges the state pursues, but it will also have a drug offense that shows up on every background check performed by employers and other parties, like landlords and educational institutions.
Realizing that drug offenses in Georgia are more serious than in other jurisdictions may help people respond to charges in more informed and proactive ways.