Georgia Meth Laws
If you have been charged with possession of methamphetamine in Georgia, there are some basics to the law that you must know to successfully defend your case. This article is not meant to be a sales pitch for legal services, but rather a guide to Georgia methamphetamine law to inform those facing meth related felony crimes. After reading this information, call our defense attorneys directly to discuss your best defense. We can be reached 24/7 at (770) 676-1340.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and dangerous synthetic drug that requires a complex chemical process to manufacture. It can be used illegally as a stimulant and legally by prescription for narcolepsy and maintaining blood pressure. Legally, it can be found in pill or powder form; illegally it can be in the form of small crystals, powder, compressed into pills, or mixed with other illegal drugs.
Why is it Criminal?
Methamphetamine is highly addictive and has an intense and sudden "high". It is possible to overdose and die from just one use of methamphetamine. Use of Methamphetamine over a period of time leads to severe health, mental, and social problems and Methamphetamine is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous and completely, holistically destructive drugs there is. The criminal punishment for the possession, sale, distribution, and manufacture of Methamphetamine is designed to protect the public from the clear harms of this dangerous drug.
In Georgia, Methamphetamine is a Schedule II Drug, meaning that the State Legislature recognizes some medical use in the drug and also that the drug is highly addictive and dangerous. Schedule II is the second-most restricted type of drug. Types of Opium, Cocaine, and other complex chemical drugs are also Schedule II.
What can someone be charged with, in regard to Methamphetamine?
The rest of this article will outline a number of crimes that people associated with methamphetamine are typically charged. The article will take the criminal liability from simple possession and paraphernalia to the manufacture, trafficking, and distribution, and will end with special issues of "Drug-Free" zones. There are many nuances in the law and many other laws and processes that will affect an actual methamphetamine case: this is not meant to be an exhaustive guide on the subject, only a simple survey. Also, some Georgia drug crimes may also result in prosecution by Federal Agents which may carry further liability which is not discussed here.
The purchase and possession of small amounts of methamphetamine results in different punishments upon conviction - the punishment will vary depending on the amount of the drug that the person has in his or her possession. For up to 2 grams, imprisonment for 1 to 3 years. For 2 to 4 grams, imprisonment for 1 to 8 years. For 4 to 28 grams, imprisonment for 1 to 25 years. If someone is convicted 3 times or more than the length of imprisonment may possibly double. Possession greater than 28 grams is considered Trafficking, and is discussed below. If a person abandons the drug in a public place then they may be liable for a misdemeanor as well.
Methamphetamine Paraphernalia, or "Drug Related Objects", encompasses a wide range of items and devices for the manufacture, storage, testing, and use of the drug, and possession of the paraphernalia also results in criminal liability. Further, if someone is convicted of selling paraphernalia then they will also face this punishment. The first offense results in a misdemeanor. The second offense results in a misdemeanor of a "high and aggravated nature". Any conviction beyond the second results in a felony, imprisonment for between 1 and 5 years, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Manufacture and Distribution
Manufacturing Methamphetamine is a careful, scientific process that involves highly volatile chemicals and is itself a very dangerous activity. Simply possessing the substances needed to manufacture the drug can result in a felony conviction, 1 to 25 years in prison, and up to a $100,000 fine. In order to prove that a person has substances for the production of methamphetamine, the prosecutor will look to the person's own statements and behavior, prior convictions, the way in which the substances are stored or displayed, instructions or other materials for methamphetamine manufacture, and they may even bring in an expert to talk about the probable use of the person's substances.
Once the person is engaged in the manufacture, distribution, delivery, or sale of methamphetamine, then he or she may be charged with another crime. If convicted, a first offense can result in a felony and imprisonment for 5 to 30 years, while a second (or more) offense can result in a felony and 10 to 40 years, or life, in prison.
Trafficking is the sale, delivery, manufacturing, or bringing 28 grams or more of methamphetamine into the state. This carries some of the greatest punishments someone can receive for methamphetamine. For 28 to 200 grams, the person faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $200,000 fine. For 200 to 400 grams, the person faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a $300,000 fine. For 400 grams or more, the person faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a $1,000,000 fine. The maximum punishment a judge may impose is 30 years and a $1,000,000 fine.
If someone uses a communication facility, that is, any public or private devices or methods of communicating between people, including phones, mail, radio, or computers, to commit any felony here, then the person will face another felony. This crime can have a punishment of 1 to 4 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.
If someone even attempts a methamphetamine crime, or engages in a conspiracy (agreement) to commit a methamphetamine crime, then that person or the people involved can be held criminally liable for punishments up to the maximum punishment of the attempted or conspired crime.
It should also be noted that if someone tries to make or sell imitation methamphetamine then they may also be found guilty of another crime. If found guilty the person may be convicted of a misdemeanor of a "high and aggravated nature".
State legislature and municipalities have designated certain areas to carry an additional punishment for the manufacture, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute within the zones. The three types of special drug zones are Schools, Parks and Housing Projects, and Drug-Free Commercial Zones.
If someone commits one of those crimes within 1000 feet of school property, a park, or a housing project, then they may face one type of punishment. For the first offense someone can face up to 25 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. For a second or subsequent conviction, the person can face 5 to 40 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years, and/or a $40,000 fine.
If someone commits one of those crimes in or on a Drug-Free Commercial Zone (but not "within 1000 feet", like with schools, parks, and housing projects), then the person may face a similar punishment. For the first offense the person may see up to 25 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine, and for the second and subsequent offenses the person may see 5 to 40 years and/or a $40,000 fine - here there is no mandatory minimum, unlike with schools, parks, and housing projects.
It should also be noted here that there is a defense to these special zone crimes if the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute was entirely within a private residence, it did not involve anyone under the age of 18, and there was no financial gain.
Meth Crimes and Your Driver’s License
In addition to jail, fines, probation and other criminal punishments, the Georgia Department of Driver Services will suspend your driver’s license for all meth related charges, including drug related objects charges under the law. The period of suspension is generally 6 months on a first meth charge and there is no hardship or work permit available. This means you must endure a hard license suspension and cannot drive under any circumstance for the six month period. After the six month period is up, you must show the Dept. of Driver Services proof of completion of a risk reduction program and pay reinstatement fees before you are eligible for a new driver’s license. On second and subsequent crimes, your license suspension terms grow longer and still require compliance with other terms as laid out by the Dept. of Driver Services before you can obtain a new license.
Defending Your Meth Case: Drug Courts and Treatment
At Zeliff | Watson, we believe in a proactive defense in methamphetamine cases. Courts, prosecutors and those in the criminal justice system recognize the dangers and highly addictive qualities of meth, and believe that anyone using meth or associating with those who do is in dire need of help. Getting treatment early on is always helpful in a possession of meth cases. Private inpatient facilities, outpatient groups, or 12 step programs like NA are all good options if you are facing meth charges and need substance abuse help. Additionally, most counties now have drug courts, which are special accountability courts that involve a long term treatment plan integrated into your time under court supervision. Usually, if you enter drug court, you will be in the program for a set period of time and successful graduation can result in a full dismissal of your charges, though it must be negotiated.
A typical drug court program is divided into phases will involve some combination of:
- Group and individual therapy and counseling
- Random drug testing throughout the length of the program
- Regular court appearances where progress, phasing up, and sanctions are discussed
Drug court programs are generally 18-24 months long, and you are on probation while completing the program. Doing well in drug court is usually rewarded with various passes and incentives, while missing dates or testing positive for drugs will result in sanctions, including jail time. Gwinnett County's drug court handbook can be found online and is a good resource for those exploring drug court options. Additionally, some drug courts will accept transfer cases if the county where you are being prosecuted does not have a drug court program.
Contact an Attorney
Methamphetamine is a very dangerous drug and a person who is mixed up in methamphetamine faces serious health, mental, and social risks, including criminal liability. Because methamphetamine is so infamous and its destructive nature is widely accepted, police, prosecutors, and judges have neither patience nor mercy for those people accused of methamphetamine crimes. This is a serious topic that should be taken with a solemn tone because it affects so many people's lives so drastically. This simple survey of potential punishments does not even come close to encompassing the entire complex network of crimes that can be related to methamphetamine. If you or a loved one may be facing criminal liability for methamphetamine, it is a bad idea to rely solely on this blog post for advice on how to proceed - you should discuss your individual situation with a professional. Only a licensed attorney, competent in the field of drug laws, can give you accurate advice for your unique situation. Further, the long and involved process of defending against a methamphetamine charge is best handled by a professional.
If you think you should talk to an attorney about your situation then please contact the experienced attorneys at Zeliff | Watson. We specialize in defending those accused of a wide range of crimes, and are well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the methamphetamine laws. We can be reached 24/7 at: (770) 676-1340.