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The penalties contained in Georgia vs federal drug laws

| Jul 27, 2020 | Federal Drug Charges |

In Augusta, you do not only have Georgia’s criminal drug laws to worry about. Federal law also punishes drug offenses. These layers of criminal law work side-by-side in Georgia to charge thousands of people with felony possession, trafficking and other very serious crimes.

One of the big differences between federal and state-level drug crimes are the seriousness of the charges. Georgia law contains misdemeanor-level charges with relatively small potential penalties. For example, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana carries a potential penalty of a jail sentence of up to 12 months or a fine of no more than $1,000. Federal crimes are all felony-level. That means that a prison term of at least 366 days is always a possibility.

Federal drug laws are severe

Both Georgia and the federal government divide controlled substances to several classes, or schedules, based on their perceived seriousness. In general, Schedule I drugs are considered by authorities to be the most dangerous, and lacking in medicinal value, though this claim can be controversial. For example, both state and federal law put LSD in Schedule I, along with heroin. In general, federal law penalties for drug trafficking are as follows:

  • Schedule I and Schedule II: Up to 20 years in prison for a first offense, and up to 30 years for a second offense. If death or serious bodily injury is involved, a first offense prison term increases to 20 years to life. A second offense involving death or serious injury results in an automatic life sentence.
  • Schedule III: Up to 10 years in prison for a first offense, or up to 20 years for a subsequent offense. If death or bodily injury is involved, the maximum penalties increase to 15 and 20 years.
  • Schedule IV: Up to five years for a first offense, or up to ten years for a second offense.
  • Schedule V: Up to one year for a first offense, or up to four years for a second offense.

In Georgia law, trafficking of a Schedule I and Schedule II substance is punishable by between one and 30 years in prison. Sale of a Schedule III, IV or V substance carries a sentence of one to ten years.

What to do if you are charged in state or federal court

If you are facing federal or state-level drug charges, your best bet to avoid prison is to find a defense attorney who practices in both levels of criminal law. A seasoned attorney will develop a strategy for your case based on their knowledge of the law and criminal procedure.