Like many states, Georgia issues harsh penalties for possession of illegal substances, with those penalties rising based on the amount of the substance found. When a defendant is found with high enough quantities, that is considered possession with intent to distribute, carrying even harsher penalties.
With this informational guide, we will focus solely on Schedule II drugs, meaning those drugs which can be used for medicinal purposes, but that also have a high risk of being abused or creating physical or psychological addiction. One of five schedules of drugs classified under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), substances that are considered Schedule II drugs are outlined by the law under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, O.C.G.A. §16-13-26.
Further defining possession of these drugs as a felony, the Georgia Code considers the following as Schedule II Drugs.
- Substances derived from Opium: This covers a broad spectrum of drugs which are created from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. This can include ordinary pain medications including oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine, plus related substances similarly derived from poppies.
- Cocaine: This includes various substances derived from coca leaves, primarily cocaine, but also encompassing other assorted chemical variants.
- Opiates: Not all opiates are considered Schedule II drugs, merely stronger painkillers such as sufentanil, methadone and fentanyl.
- Stimulants: Here meaning stronger drugs including methamphetamine and amphetamines, this category encompasses those drugs that quicken the brain’s activity.
- Depressants: Including barbiturates like pentobarbital and amobarbital, these are substances that slow the central nervous system.
Also considered Schedule II drugs under Georgia law are substances like Adderall, Ritalin and dronabinol in oral solution. Like many of the drugs on this schedule, these can be prescribed by a doctor. When a person is found to be in possession of these substances without a prescription, they can be charged under the law, with penalties varying not only on the person’s criminal history, but also on the amount they possess.
As a general rule, jail time can be between 1-3 years for possession of less than a gram (1 ml liquid), between 1-8 years for possession of between 1-4 grams, and between 1-15 years for possession of between 4-28 grams.
That’s to say nothing of the long-term, collateral consequences that can stem from a conviction for Possession of Schedule II Drugs charge. As felons, those convicted often find themselves unable to secure a job, find suitable housing, pursue higher education or receive licensing for certain professions. They can also lose their rights to vote or own a firearm. A conviction can lead to loss of child custody, and for non-citizens, can result in deportation.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
When a person is found with a sufficient quantity of a Schedule II drug — or are found to be in possession of large sums of cash or paraphernalia such as scales, baggies, packaging materials that suggest distribution — they can be charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute.
As a greater charge, Possession with Intent to Distribute carries with it higher penalties. These penalties can vary between jurisdictions, but they are usually based on several factors including:
- The amount and type of drug found
- Aggravating circumstances such as proximity to schools
- The defendant’s prior criminal convictions
- Potential for harm to other
In cases of Possession with Intent to Distribute, prosecutors can face difficulty in proving intention, since it relies so heavily on circumstantial evidence. In cases where the defendant is a repeat offender or is found with a significantly high quantity of drugs, mandatory minimum sentencing may apply. In general, however, the penalty can include between five and 30 years in prison.
Whether the charge is Possession or Possession with Intent to Distribute, it is important to first consult with an attorney who specializes in defending against drug-related charges. Their expertise can be vital in understanding the specifics of the charges, the penalties involved and potential defenses. That’s especially true in the current climate, in which widespread addiction issues have put Schedule II drugs in the spotlight.
Some of the defenses that an attorney might recommend include:
- Questioning the Evidence: This can include asserting that the defendant was not in possession of the drugs at the time, that they weren’t under the defendant’s direct control, or that substances were misidentified by the lab.
- Asserting Procedural Errors: Law enforcement errors happen all the time, which can violate constitutional rights or render evidence inadmissible.
- Claim Duress: This involves demonstrating that the defendant didn’t act of their own free will, but were compelled to under immediate threat of physical harm or death.
Alternative Penalties for a Conviction
If the defendant is found guilty of Possession of a Schedule II Drug, there are still means by which they can avoid jail time. This is particularly true now, as the full scope of the addiction epidemic has highlighted the success of rehabilitative measures to treat the underlying addiction that led to the crime. This is in addition to diversionary and alternative sentencing programs that are more rehabilitative than punitive in nature. A few of these include:
The First Offender Act: In certain cases, Georgia law allows for first-time offenders to plead guilty in exchange for entering into probation and court-required programs. Upon successful completion, the charges will be discharged, keeping their criminal record clean.
Drug Courts: Certain drug courts within the legal system emphasis high-intensity court-supervised drug programs that include regular counseling and testing along with other requirements. Completion of these programs can lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.
Conditional Discharge: Generally reserved for first-time offenders, a conditional discharge allows the defendant to be placed on probation without being formally convicted. Once the probation is complete, charges are dropped.
Pretrial Diversion Programs: Defendants who are eligible for Pretrial Diversion can enter into drug counseling, submit themselves to regular drug testing and perform community service acts in order to have their charges dropped.
Plea Bargains: In certain cases, a defendant’s attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, allowing them to plead guilty to a lesser charge, reducing the penalties they would face.
The options and programs presented above depend greatly on a variety of factors, ranging from the defendant’s criminal record, specifics of the arrest and the drug in question.
What Sets Busbee Law Group Apart
Drug charges can often be extraordinarily complicated, and fighting them takes a wealth of knowledge and the willingness to dig deeper and prepare more. At Busbee Law Group, we build a robust defense on these pillars, relying on decades of experience to help clients fight charges and investigating every detail to create the strongest defense possible.
We keep our caseloads low so that we can approach every case with that same dedication, researching every facet of a case so we can walk into the courtroom better prepared than the prosecution. We work harder, we work smarter, and we work with an entire team dedicated to your freedom.
Schedule II Drug charges can be intimidating, but you don’t have to face them alone. With Busbee Law Group on your side, you’ll understand everything about your case and the strategy being used to secure your freedom. Empowered by this knowledge, you can rest easy knowing our experienced team has put the focus on your freedom. Submit your contact information below to schedule a free, no obligation confidential consultation in-person, online, or over the phone.