Penalties for Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act

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In the state of Georgia, drugs are regulated under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, a violation of which can lead to criminal charges. Learn more in this comprehensive overview.


Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.

Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.

Published on July 28, 2021, last updated on August 26, 2021.


What Is the Georgia Controlled Substances Act?

In Georgia, the state regulates controlled substances, as well as specifications and penalties for drug charges under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (GCSA). Although some Georgia drug charges can be considered misdemeanor offenses, most of them are felony crimes.

However, the severity of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act violation depends on the quantity of drugs an individual allegedly possesses, as well as the type of the substances in question.

Georgia law classifies controlled substances into five categories which are called schedules.  Schedules identify the severity of drugs, the level of addiction, and the dangers of each controlled substance.

GA drug laws are harsh, and the charges shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even a less serious offense could result in a criminal charge, with jail time and fines as mandatory minimum penalties.

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Georgia, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately before saying anything to the prosecutor or the police. Attorney Philip Kim is experienced with criminal defense cases and can help you fight a drug charge and provide legal advice. His law firm, Philip Kim Law, P.C., provides skilled defense representation to clients in Lawrenceville and throughout surrounding areas in Georgia.

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Georgia Controlled Substance Laws and Drug Schedules

Drug schedules range from the most dangerous drugs, which are highly addictive and possess a high potential for abuse, to the least addictive drugs with a limited risk of addiction and a low potential for abuse.

Drugs under Schedule I have a high potential for abuse with currently no accepted medical use in the U.S. Heroin, Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD, Peyote, Mescaline, Ecstasy, and GHB are just some of the drugs that are considered Schedule I drugs. 

Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for abuse and “may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” according to the Georgia drugs law. In addition, Schedule II drugs or controlled substances have a currently accepted medical use in treatments or acceptable medical use with severe conditions. Among these controlled substances are Codeine, Crack, Cocaine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Methadone, and Morphine. These drugs may be legally possessed if an individual has a valid prescription for them. 

Schedule III drugs have a lesser potential for abuse than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, have accepted medical use, and abuse of a Schedule III controlled substance may result in low or moderate psychological or physical dependence. Schedule III drugs include Testosterone, Ketamine, as well as certain anabolic steroids. 

Schedule IV drugs have accepted medical use in treatments, have a low potential for abuse, and may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence. Bromazepam, Clonazepam, Lorazepam, Phenobarbital are considered Schedule IV drugs. 

Lastly, Schedule V drugs also have accepted medical use for treatments in the United States. These drugs have a low potential for abuse relative to Schedule IV narcotics, and their abuse may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence. Compounds or mixtures containing limited quantities of codeine or opium, Lacosamide, and Pyrovalerone are some of the drugs classified under Schedule V. 

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Violation Of Georgia Controlled Substance Act: What Are the Consequences?

Most violations of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act are considered felony crimes. Those facing charges for these violations may face different penalties, including prison time, probation, fines, community service, or attending a drug treatment program. But, penalties get harsher if a minor was involved, if the crimes were committed on school grounds, or if a significant amount of drugs were involved. 

In Georgia, drug charges are divided into the following categories: purchase, drug possession, manufacture, distribution, and sale. 

Drug possession includes knowingly having the controlled substance in one’s possession. The possession itself can be actual, which occurs, for example, when having a controlled substance in the pocket, and constructive, which includes having controlled substances in a place an individual has control over or owns, like having a controlled substance in the car. 

Any individual caught with a certain amount of controlled substance can be charged with drug possession. 

A first offense of possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II narcotic is a felony possession and can result in a penalty from 2 to 15 years in prison. For a second offense, an individual may end up convicted of a felony punishable by five to 30 years in prison.

The first offense related to Schedule III drugs, Schedule IV, or Schedule V drugs carries a minimum prison sentence of one to five years. A subsequent conviction can result in a penalty of one to ten years in prison.

If an individual has in possession a certain amount of narcotic drugs that are considered excessive, they may also face a charge of possession with intent to distribute. Sometimes, the quantity of drugs can be sufficient for this charge. But, having a large amount of cash, individually bagged drugs, or having measuring devices may also indicate the drugs are not intended just for personal use. 

Violation Of Georgia Controlled Substance Act What Are the Consequences

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Detailed Penalties for Each Drug Schedule

The penalties for drug offenses in Georgia vary significantly depending on the schedule of the controlled substance involved. For Schedule I drugs, which include substances with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, possession can result in 2 to 15 years of imprisonment for a first offense. A second offense can lead to 5 to 30 years in prison.

For Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential for abuse but have accepted medical uses, the penalties are similar. A first offense carries a prison sentence of 2 to 15 years, while a subsequent offense may result in 5 to 30 years.

Schedule III substances, which have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, carry lighter penalties. A first offense can result in 1 to 5 years of imprisonment, and a second offense may lead to 1 to 10 years.

Schedule IV and V drugs, which have a lower potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III, have similar penalties. A first conviction can result in 1 to 5 years in prison, while a second offense can lead to 1 to 10 years.

In addition to prison time, individuals convicted of these offenses may also face hefty fines, mandatory drug education or treatment programs, community service, and probation. Enhanced penalties apply if the offense involves minors, school zones, or large quantities of drugs. For comprehensive details on specific penalties, refer to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.).

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Georgia Controlled Substances Act and Marijuana

Offenses including possession, manufacturing, distributing, and selling marijuana or any marijuana flavored product are considered violations of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act.

When it comes to marijuana, possession of less than one ounce (oz) of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.

Possession of more than one ounce but less than 10 pounds (10 lbs) is a felony punishable with a mandatory one year and up to ten years in prison. There is also a fine of up to $5,000. However, possession of more than ten but less than 2,000 pounds is considered drug trafficking. This felony conviction carries a penalty of a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

In the state of Georgia, using medical marijuana is legal if the user has a Low THC Oil Registry Card, but the cultivation of the plant itself and its distribution is not. However, the city of Savannah in Chatham County decriminalized the possession of marijuana. First-time offenders are convicted of infractions instead of jail time and face fines of up to $150.

Georgia Controlled Substances Act Registration

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Georgia Controlled Substances Act Registration

Under Georgia law, “the State Board of Pharmacy regulates rules and fees regarding the registration and control of the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of controlled substances within this state.”

If you are facing a controlled substances charge, bear in mind that every charge is different, and that is the main reason you have to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Typical defenses include claiming that the drugs belonged to someone else, that the police conducted an illegal search, or that you have a valid prescription for the drugs found in your possession. 

If, however, you were caught driving under the influence of drugs, you’ll need help from a qualified DUI attorney. Individuals with any amount of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or any other illegal substance in their system may face severe legal penalties, including loss of their driving privileges. 

Having a competent defense attorney by your side, such as Philip Kim, can improve your chances in court when it comes to charges regarding controlled substances. To find out how he can help you, contact Philip Kim Law, P.C., and schedule a free consultation.

Georgia Controlled Substances Act and Marijuana

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