Possession of a Controlled Substance in Georgia

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Every state regulates the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its definition of CDS and the penalties for their possession. Georgia classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine as controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

Certain drugs, like codeine, may be legally possessed with a valid prescription.

How Georgia Classifies CDS

Georgia divides its CDS into five “schedules,” according to their likelihood for abuse.

  • Schedule I drugs (such as heroin) are those that have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use.
  • Schedule II drugs (such as opium and morphine) have a high potential for abuse, have an accepted medical use with severe restrictions, and their abuse has the potential for severe psychic and physical dependence.
  • Schedule III drugs (such as anabolic steroids) have a potential for abuse less than Schedule I or II drugs, have an accepted medical use, and their abuse may lead to low or moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence.
  • Schedule IV drugs (such as diazepam) have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, have an acceptable medical use, and their abuse may lead to limited psychological and physical dependence in relation to Schedule III drugs.
  • Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse relative to Schedule IV CDS, have a currently accepted medical use, and have a limited risk of physical or psychological dependence relative to Schedule IV CDS. Schedule V drugs include medicines that contain very small amounts of specified narcotic drugs.

(Georgia Code Section 16-13-25 through 16-13-29.)

This article concerns the possession of CDS for personal use only. Separate punishments apply to the sale of CDS. For information about sale of CDS, see Sale of a Controlled Substance in Georgia.

Penalties for the Possession of CDS

CDS possession crimes are all felonies, except for those that involve small amounts of marijuana. The penalty for felony possession depends on the type of CDS involved in the offense. Multiple possession convictions are punished more harshly.

To understand the charges and penalties you might be facing, begin with the charging document in your case (usually called either a complaint or, if from a grand jury, an indictment). Identify the name of the drugs specified in the document, consult the schedules explained above, and place them in the proper schedule. Then read below to learn about possible charges and sentences.

Possession of Schedule I CDS or Schedule II narcotics

Possession of any Schedule I CDS or Schedule II narcotic is a felony punishable by two to 15 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by five to 30 years in prison.

Possession of Schedule II CDS other than narcotics

Possession of any Schedule II CDS other than a narcotic is a felony punishable by to two to 15 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by five to 30 years in prison.

Possession of Schedule III, IV, or V CDS

Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V CDS is a felony and punishable by one to five years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by one to ten years in prison.

This provision does not include flunitrazepam, a Schedule IV CDS.

(Georgia Code Section 16-13-30.)

Possession of Flunitrazepam

Possession of flunitrazepam is a felony and punishable by two to 15 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by five to 30 years in prison.

(Georgia Code Section 16-13-30.)

Possession of Marijuana

The penalty for possession of marijuana depends on the amount involved in the offense.

  • Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, or a period of community service of up to one year.
  • Possession of marijuana of one ounce or more is a felony punishable by one to ten years in prison.

For more information see Marijuana Possession Laws in Georgia.

(Georgia Code Section 16-13-30.)

Felony Sentences Punishable by Ten Years or Less

A felony conviction punishable by a period of incarceration of ten years or less may, at the court’s discretion, be sentenced as a misdemeanor.

(Georgia Code Section 17-10-5.)

Attempt Or Conspiracy To Commit A CDS Crime

The attempt, or conspiracy to commit, any CDS crime is punishable by a period of incarceration up to the maximum sentence permitted for the actual commission of the underlying crime.

(Georgia Code Section 16-13-33.)

Drug Related Objects

The possession of, or possession with the intent to use, drug related objects is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of incarceration, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Drug related objects include:

  • materials for cultivating or growing CDS
  • materials for packaging, storing, or containing CDS
  • objects used to conceal CDS, or
  • items used to inhale, inject, or otherwise administer or ingest CDS.

(Georgia Code 16-32-32.2 and 17-10-3.)

Conditional Discharge for First-Time Possession Offenders

If a defendant has never been convicted of a CDS-related crime in Georgia or under any other law of the United States, the court may, with the defendant's consent, impose a period of probation and withhold a finding of guilt. The judge may require the defendant to enroll in a drug treatment program. If the defendant does not violate probation, the court will dismiss the underlying charges, and the defendant will not have a conviction on his record.

 If the defendant violates any condition of probation, the court will resume criminal proceedings by entering a  finding of guilt into the official court record and proceeding with sentencing.

(Georgia Code 16-13-2.)

Talk To An Attorney

A conviction for the possession of CDS can result in long periods of incarceration and have life long consequences. You should consult an attorney experienced in CDS defense so that you can understand the charges you face, the possible penalties, and the options available to you such as a guilty plea, a plea to a lesser charge, or a trial. 

by: , Contributing Author

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