Possession of Marijuana (VGCSA Charges)
While there has been a growing trend across several states in the United States to either partially or fully legalize the use of marijuana, the state of Georgia still considers possession of any amount of the substance to be a criminal offense. It's important to note that even an amount as little as one ounce can land you in trouble with the law. If caught by the authorities, you will be charged with a misdemeanor for less than an ounce of marijuana and a felony for anything exceeding that amount. The penalties for such charges can have a tremendous impact on your life, which is why it is important to understand the legal consequences of possessing marijuana in Georgia.
What is a VGCSA Charge?
In Georgia, a VGCSA, or a Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, is a serious offense that can carry significant consequences. One of the most common VGCSA charges is possession of marijuana, even if it is less than an ounce. It is important to understand that possession of any amount of marijuana is still considered a violation of this act, and can result in fines, probation, and even incarceration. If you or someone you know is facing a VGCSA charge, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Depending on how the drugs were found and also depending on a person's record, there could be options in handling this serious offense, other than a conviction.
Possession of Marijuana Charges in Georgia
When it comes to the possession of marijuana in Georgia, the law is clear. A misdemeanor charge is given for possession of less than an ounce, and anything over that amount is considered a felony offense. However, it's important to understand what constitutes legal possession in Georgia, and the difference between actual possession and constructive possession, in knowing what your case may look like, moving forward. The distinction between actual possession and constructive possession of drugs is crucial in understanding an individual's involvement with controlled substances like marijuana. Actual possession refers to a person physically holding or having direct control over the drugs, such as carrying them in a pocket or a bag. If the police catch you with marijuana on your person, and the officer's search and seizure is found to be valid, it's a lot harder to get these charges overturned. On the other hand, constructive possession occurs when an individual doesn't have direct physical control but has knowledge of the drugs' presence and the ability to exercise control over them. This might include situations where drugs are found in a shared living space or a vehicle. If this happens, the police will usually arrest all persons with constructive possession and let them fight it out in court to see whose marijuana it was or was not. Both types of possession can lead to legal consequences in Georgia, depending on the specific circumstances and the nature of the controlled substances involved - as we've discussed previously, if the marijuana is less than an ounce, it's a misdemeanor charge, but anything over that amount is an automatic felony. No matter what circumstances resulting in your charge of Marijuana VGCSA, you would highly benefit from contacting a local criminal defense attorney to see what your options are to fight the charges, and also to keep your record clean if the charges still stand.
What about Medicinal Marijuana?
Even in Georgia, possessing marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal in some cases, but strict guidelines must be followed. If you have an expired card or you do not have the right kinds of drugs in your possession that your card says you should have, you could still be charged with a violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. The possession of marijuana is a serious offense, but with the right understanding of the law, it's possible to avoid legal trouble and stay on the right side of the law in Georgia.
Consequences for a Marijuana Possession Conviction
If you're caught with marijuana, the consequences of a conviction will vary depending on the severity of the charges. If it's a misdemeanor, you face up to 12 months in jail, probation for any part of the 12 months not spent in jail, fines of up to $1,000 not including court costs and surcharges, community service hours, getting evaluated for drug abuse or dependence and following all treatment recommended by the evaluator, and submitting to random drug screens at your own expense. While on reporting probation, you'll pay a supervisory fee each month, and have to report to your probation officer whenever they tell you to - usually in person. If you fail to complete any of the requirements on probation, you could find yourself back in jail as punishment.
A felony conviction for marijuana possession, on the other hand, can result in much harsher versions of the above misdemeanor penalties, including long-term imprisonment, a permanent criminal record that can hinder future job and education prospects, and even the loss of certain rights (such as the right to vote while on felony probation). Your fines will be higher and your time on probation will be higher as well - and once again, if you fail to complete any of the requirements on your felony probation, not only could you go to jail as a result, but they could send you to prison for months or years as it is a felony. It's important to weigh the potential risks of having a charge stick as a conviction before deciding to use or possess this drug in Georgia.
Options for First Time Offenders
For many individuals who find themselves in legal trouble for the first time, the possibility of a conviction and a criminal record can be a frightening prospect, especially for something as controversial as marijuana, which has been legalized in other states outside of Georgia. However, in certain circumstances, there may be a way to avoid this outcome and still face the consequences of one's actions. Pre-trial diversion programs provide an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution for those who qualify (usually you must have never been arrested prior to this charge), and many jurisdictions offer this possibility for first-time offenders charged with possession of marijuana. While the requirements of such programs can vary, they generally involve supervised probation and may include drug treatment or community service. If successfully completed, charges may be dismissed or expunged from one's record. For those facing a possession charge, pre-trial diversion may offer a second chance and an opportunity for a brighter future.
If you are facing a first lifetime drug charge for possession of marijuana in Georgia, but you do not qualify for pre-trial diversion, you may be wondering if there are any options available to help protect your record. One possibility to consider is a conditional discharge guilty plea, offered to ever person once in their lifetime, only usable if they do not have any prior drug convictions. This type of plea agreement would require you to complete a period of probation and the other requirements listed above usually ordered with these charges, but once you successfully complete that probation, the guilty plea would be removed from your record. This can be a valuable option for individuals who want to keep their record clean and avoid the long-term consequences of a drug charge. However, the other side of this type of plea is that if you do not successfully complete probation, you can be resentenced to the maximum required under the law - so if you were originally only on probation for 2 years, but you messed up and got resentenced, they could increase it for an additional year, if the max was 3 years.
If you're interested in exploring either of these options, it may be helpful to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide guidance and support as you navigate the legal process.
How We Can Help
At Your Law Firm, we understand that getting charged with possession of marijuana in any amount can be a stressful and confusing experience. Whether it's a misdemeanor or felony, our team has the expertise and care to assist you in navigating through the legal system. We specialize in helping first time offenders keep their lives on track by offering customized legal strategies tailored to fit each individual's unique needs. Our goal is to provide you with the best possible outcome and ensure that your legal rights are protected. With our professional and friendly guidance, we will work with you every step of the way to achieve a successful resolution to your case. Let us assist you today and take that first step towards a brighter future.