When state prosecutors in Georgia charge someone with a crime, they either file felony or misdemeanor charges against the person accused. It is common for those recently arrested and worried about their legal future to catastrophize or imagine the worst possible scenario. They picture the prosecutor filing felony charges and the courts imposing the worst possible sentence after a criminal conviction.
As a result, drug-related charges often lead to panic and even decisions to plead guilty before defendants have a full picture of their situation. What people may not realize is that a large percentage of the drug-related offenses prosecuted in Georgia end up being misdemeanor cases rather than felony cases. The circumstances leading to an individual’s arrest directly influence the type of charge state prosecutors pursue.
Simple possession is occasionally a misdemeanor
In Georgia, the vast majority of drug offenses result in felony charges. Any of the drugs listed on the state schedule can lead to felony charges even for low-level possession offenses. The only exception to this rule is when someone faces allegations of possessing small amounts of marijuana. Possession of less than one ounce would result in misdemeanor charges. Possessing more than an ounce or other drugs at the same time will likely result in felony charges.
People can also expect that prosecutors will pursue multiple charges whenever possible. The possession of paraphernalia, having more than one drug present and even trying to run from the police could all complicate the case by giving the prosecutor grounds for several different criminal charges.
Those who plead guilty will end up with a felony that turns up on any background check future landlords and employers perform. A guilty plea will also leave someone at the mercy of a judge for sentencing. Defense options may include questioning the accuracy of evidence, proving that a search was illegal or raising doubts about who actually possessed items found in a home or vehicle.
The evidence that the state has, the charges the prosecutor has filed and someone’s criminal background can all influence an individual’s options for defending against pending drug charges. Some people may qualify for pre-trial diversion, like the drug courts, where they can pursue treatment instead of punishment. For these reasons and more, learning more about state drug laws may be helpful for anyone facing drug charges in Georgia.