Georgia residents have lived with the war on drugs for a few decades now. Wherever one stands on the wisdom of current drug enforcement policy, one thing is fairly clear: illegal drug use has not disappeared. Because of this, police and prosecutors continue to mount raids and sting operations in hopes of finding a large amount of drugs that can be photographed and used to show the public they are doing something. Unfortunately, this also means people can get caught up in this enforcement net and face harsh penalties depending upon their alleged involvement.
Like most states, Georgia has adopted a scheduling rubric to help define the seriousness of drug crimes, and hence, the penalties handed out to those convicted on drug charges. This system splits various illegal substances into categories, or schedules, that are labeled in descending order of seriousness from I to V (those are Roman Numerals 1 through 5, not letters.) Schedule I drugs are those with a high potential for abuse and that have no accepted medical use. This includes substances usually thought of as ‘hard drugs’ like heroin and cocaine. Schedule V drugs have potential medical use and low risk of abuse and dependence. The other three schedules contain substances in between these two extremes.
The importance of the scheduling is that Georgia criminal law provides for different punishments for the possession of different types of drugs. All drug possession charges in Georgia are felonies (with the exception of some marijuana possession, which is in its own category.) Possessing Schedule I or II drugs can be punished by prison terms of two to 15 years for a first offense, with subsequent offenses potentially leading to up to 30 years. Possession of Schedule III, IV or V drugs can get the defendant between one and five years in prison for a first offense, and up to 10 for subsequent convictions.
As can be seen, being arrested for drug charges can be very serious in Georgia. The potential loss of freedom for a long period of time should be considered by those facing this situation. It is important to remember that the authorities must follow strict rules with regard to investigating and prosecuting these crimes, and must prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. People charged with drug possession should consider making sure their legal rights are protected.