Drug Trafficking Charges

Drug trafficking charges in Georgia

Drug trafficking charges in Georgia are based on allegations that an individual possesses, sells, distributes or manufactures a large amount of illegal drugs. The difference between drug trafficking and other drug crimes – like drug possession, drug distribution or drug manufacturing – is the quantity of drugs involved in the offense. In most states, the case has to involve more than several pounds of marijuana or an ounce or more of “harder” drugs (like cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, etc.) to be charged with drug trafficking.

Because there is a larger amount of drugs involved in a trafficking case, drug trafficking charges can carry serious mandatory minimum prison sentences that usually increase with the quantity of the drugs.

Here is a short video describing drug trafficking laws in Georgia, including some defenses that our firm has used in the past to win these cases at trial or successfully resolve them before they ever get to trial.

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Drug Trafficking Charges and Penalties in Georgia

Trafficking cocaine is defined as selling, manufacturing, delivering or knowingly possessing 28 or more grams of cocaine. If the quantity is at least 28 grams but less than 200 grams, the penalty is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. For quantities of at least 200 grams but less than 400 grams, the law requires a minimum sentence of 15 years. More than 400 grams of cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 25 years.

For morphine or opium (including heroin), a person commits the crime of trafficking when he or she possesses 4 or more grams. Selling, delivering, or possessing 4 or more grams but less than 14 grams requires a minimum sentence of 5 years. Quantities between 14 and less than 28 grams require a sentence of at least 10 years. For 28 grams or more, the law demands a sentence of at least 25 years.

Trafficking in marijuana is defined as selling, manufacturing, growing, delivering, or possessing more than 10 pounds of marijuana. An amount greater than 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds requires at least a 5-year sentence. An amount between 2,000 but less than 10,000 pounds requires a minimum sentence of 7 years. For 10,000 or more pounds, the minimum sentence is 15 years.

For methamphetamine or amphetamine, trafficking involves the sale, delivery, or possession of 28 or more grams. Amounts between 28 but less than 200 grams will result in at least a 10 year sentence. For amounts between 200 but less than 400 grams, there is a mandatory minimum of 15 years. Greater amounts trigger a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. Manufacturing these drugs carries its own penalties, which are virtually the same as above. The only difference is that the manufacturing of any amount under 200 grams requires a minimum sentence of 10 years.

While the above-listed sentences are mandatory minimum sentences, there are three different ways a defendant can be sentenced to less than the mandatory minimum.  First, the District Attorney can file a motion asking the sentencing court to reduce or suspend a sentence if the defendant provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any other individuals involved in the drug operation. Second, the sentencing court may use its own discretion to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant was not a leader in the drug operation, if the defendant did not possess a weapon, the criminal conduct did not result in a death or serious bodily injury, the defendant has no prior felonies, and the interests of justice will not be served by applying the mandatory minimum sentence.  Third, the sentencing court may depart where the District Attorney and the defendant have agreed to a sentence that is below a mandatory minimum sentence.

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Pate, Johnson & Church have been winning serious criminal cases in Atlanta, Brunswick, Savannah, Macon, and all across the state of Georgia for well over 20 years.

Read about our firm’s success in Georgia criminal cases.

Drug Trafficking Cases and News

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Drug Trafficking Defenses

In defending drug charges, a criminal defense attorney will normally try to determine whether the search and seizure that led to the discovery of any drugs was legal. If the drugs were discovered in a vehicle, the attorney will have to determine if the officer who stopped the vehicle had cause to do so. It will also have to be determined if the officer had cause to search the vehicle or if consent was given by the accused. If the drugs were discovered in a home, an attorney will have to verify that the search was based on a valid search warrant or other probable cause. If the police violated a person’s rights, a judge may be forced to suppress any evidence of drugs.

Another defense to drug charges is to argue that the defendant was not in possession of the drugs. A person’s mere presence where drugs are found is not enough for a conviction. There must be some additional evidence connecting the defendant to the drugs that were discovered.

There are two types of possession under the law. Actual possession occurs when the defendant had knowing and direct physical control over drugs. Constructive possession occurs when the defendant had the power and intention to exercise control over drugs, but not actual possession. There is also a presumption that the owner of a dwelling or the owner or driver of a car is in possession of any drugs that are found in the home or car. This presumption may be rebutted if the defendant can show that others had equal access to the car or home.

Many other potential defenses are available to a person accused of a drug crime. If you have been charged or are being investigated for a Georgia drug crime, you need an experienced Georgia defense lawyer who will defend your legal rights. Our firm has successfully represented clients charged with drug trafficking and drug possession for many years. If you have been charged with a drug crime, our firm may be able to help.

The information provided above is a very general summary of Georgia drug laws at the time this text was prepared. Because this analysis is subject to change depending upon recent cases and legal developments, you should not rely on this summary as legal advice. As with any important legal question, you should always consult a Georgia criminal defense lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Our lawyers are licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Georgia.