Defendants may be surprised to learn that even first offense drug cases carry severe penalties under Georgia law. Fines, jail terms, and other collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can all follow a defendant throughout his or her life for years after the criminal case has been finalized. Because of this, it is particularly important for those charged with drug offenses to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can promote fairness in the criminal case process by asserting the defendant’s important constitutional rights and can challenge those aspects of the investigation which do not meet the requirements of Georgia criminal case law.
Sentencing for Drug Offenses Under State Law
Section 16-13-30 of the Georgia Code sets sentencing requirements for drug convictions in state court. A first offense for the purchase, possession, or control of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug is punishable by no less than two, and no more than fifteen, years in prison. A second offense is punishable by no less than five, and no more than thirty, years in prison. The court can also assess fines and fees to a defendant. These severe penalties demonstrate just how seriously state law treats drug offenses.
In addition to the expected jail time and fines, drug offenses also carry collateral consequences which can seriously impact a defendant’s life. A criminal conviction can limit job opportunities, or even prevent a defendant from obtaining professional licensure. Certain drug offenses (such as driving under the influence) may also restrict a defendant’s driving privileges. Because there are so many collateral consequences to a drug offense, it is critical that defendants have the advice of an attorney who can help mitigate these consequences where possible.
The Changes to Drug Sentencing Under Federal Law
Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made no secret of his particular passion for prosecuting drug cases. Under his authority, the Justice Department has shifted much of its enforcement efforts to a wide variety of drug offenses. Many minor types of drug offenses were given low priority under the Obama Administration, which chose to focus its enforcement efforts or more serious offenses of all types. The Washington Post reports that Sessions has directed federal prosecutors in the Justice Department to pursue the most severe charges and penalties possible in their drug cases. This change came via a two-page memo to prosecutors across the country. The memo effectively overturned former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder’s policy of not charging certain defendants with offenses which would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences. Interestingly, Sessions has received opposition even from conservative sources. Civil rights groups, Republican lawmakers, and even the conservative Koch brothers have issued condemnations of the new policy
Experienced Defense of Drug Charges
Attorney Jacob Stidham has extensive experience in handling drug-related cases in both state and federal court. He represents defendants in Buford, Suwanee, Gainesville, and Flowery Branch. Call 678-889-7953 today to schedule a consultation with an experienced drug defense attorney. With effective legal counsel, defendants can protect their constitutional rights and mitigate the damage of drug charges.