It's hard enough to keep yourself going in Georgia without being harassed by the law. Although police and prosecutors have a very important job keeping the Peach State safe, any excess by law enforcement officers can do more than ruin someone's day. It can lead to improper arrest and unwarranted jail time.
- People who watched the news in the 1980s may remember the beginning of the "war on drugs." Although the catchphrase has more or less vanished, the war never ended. Thousands of people are already in jail for relatively minor drug offenses and many more face the same in current investigations.
One new push by attorneys general and district attorneys has been charges for so-called "drug-assisted homicide." This sort of charge may result if drugs that were sold or supplied by a suspect resulted in a fatal overdose. This is far more likely if drugs were contaminated with a different substance or sold under false pretenses.
Drugs have a terrible effect on people's health and happiness if they are illicit or used without medical guidance. Convictions for drug possession can be just as damaging to a person's life and career. Felony convictions are particularly problematic when people need to pass background checks for jobs and civil services.
Drug charges do not often happen with a police officer spotting a person with a joint or a pipe. Many charges of drug possession come from a discovery during another type of law enforcement intervention. It is common in Georgia for traffic stops to evolve into drug charges.
There are a lot of reasons that someone could face drug charges in Georgia that are more severe than any crime that was committed. In fact, one of the reasons charges may be too steep is if prosecutors believe a person was knowingly in possession of drugs or drug-related paraphernalia when he or she was not.
Much like public drunkenness or underage possession of alcohol, drug charges largely come from someone being caught doing something. Many of the legal details when a prosecutor has the evidence to file charges come from how a person was caught while committing a suspected crime.
Drug charges are no laughing matter in Georgia. Possession of illegal or controlled substances may result in prison time or heavy fines after prosecution or a plea deal. In many cases, drug possession may be one of several charges connected to a single arrest. Those facing charges may be able to get some or all charges dropped or reduced with legal representation.
There are changes coming in the way many U.S. law enforcement agencies approach drugs. This has come on the heels of many states and cities reducing penalties for minor drug offenses. Another connection that occurs in Georgia and elsewhere is drug charges can aggravate other cases against people.
There are many ways in which a conviction for drug possession can turn a person's life upside down. Fighting criminal charges takes an emotional and financial toll, and many accused persons may find their friends and co-workers keeping them at a distance. In Georgia, as in 21 other states, the right to vote is restricted by a drug conviction.
Most people think of juries, if they think of them at all, as the last essential part of the promise of justice in America. A person's right to let fellow citizens rule on a legal dispute is a cornerstone of trust in the courts. But a certain type of jury is important in deciding whether charges may be filed in the first place.