Being arrested can be a frightening experience, especially the first time. For many people young and old, their first encounter with going to jail comes following an arrest for possession of marijuana (referred to in Georgia as a Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act or VGCSA). Individuals arrested in Gwinnett County generally will end up at the Gwinnett County Detention Center located off GA 316 at 2900 University Parkway in Lawrenceville, Georgia. A list of active inmates at the jail can be found by clicking here. The phone number of the jail is (770) 619-6500.
Despite laws around the country legalizing the use of marijuana under varying circumstances, the use of marijuana remains illegal in most situations in Georgia. House Bill 1 was passed by the 2015-2016 Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. This law allowed for very limited use of cannabis oil by individuals suffering from very serious medical conditions. Other than certain exceptions, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes remains outlawed in Georgia.
So, you or a loved one has been arrested for possession of marijuana in Gwinnett County and want to know what happens next. For county cases, you will likely be required to appear first in the Gwinnett County Recorders Court. It is possible the case will be heard in the Gwinnett County State Court, or the Gwinnett County Superior Court for felony charges.
The Hernan Law Firm can assist you in identifying whether or not you have defenses to the charge. For example: (i) you were not actually in possession of marijuana, (ii) the substance was not properly handled or tested, or (iii) the search that resulted in the discovery of the marijuana was illegal. The weakness or strength of the evidence plays a key role in the negotiation of the case with the prosecutor. During a free consultation with Jamie Hernan of the Hernan Law Firm, you or your loved one can discuss the many options and potential outcomes for your case.
For many first time offenders, a pre-trial diversion program may be an option. With a pre-trial diversion program, individuals are given certain conditions to meet in exchange for a dismissal of the charge and restriction of their criminal history (formerly referred to as expungement in Georgia and discussed in more detail below).
Conditional Discharge by Statute
If you or your loved one has been previously convicted of an offense or completed a diversion program, the pre-trial diversion program will likely not be an option; however, you or your loved one may be eligible for a statutory program based on Georgia Code section 16-13-2. That provision of the law allows a court, in its discretion, to conditionally discharge drug offenses or nonviolent property offenses that are related to an individual’s addiction to a controlled substance or alcohol. A conditional discharge under this provision generally involves a plea of guilty which is withheld by the judge while the individual meets the condition of their sentence. If they successfully complete the terms of the sentence, the case is discharged without adjudication of guilt. Please note that a conditional discharge may have serious immigration consequences even if the case is ultimately discharged.
Georgia’s First Offender Statute
If a pre-trial diversion program or a plea pursuant to OCGA 16-13-2 are not options, Georgia’s first offender statute may be considered. Normally, this statute is used by individuals charged with a felony; however, it may be used on certain misdemeanors including drug offenses. Georgia Code section 42-8-62 allows for the discharge without adjudication of guilt of a felony charge (or misdemeanor) for individuals who have never before been convicted of a felony. Judges have the discretion to grant first offender status or deny it. Many judges will discourage the use of the first offender statute on a misdemeanor charge because once it has been used it can never be used again.
If you or your loved one was fingerprinted in connection with the charge of marijuana possession, the charge will immediately show up on your criminal history as an arrest; however, no disposition will be posted until the case is resolved. If you were given a citation but not arrested, the charge will not appear on your criminal history until you are convicted or otherwise required to get fingerprinted in connection with the case. If the case is dismissed and you or your loved one is eligible for record restriction, the process is supposed to occur automatically and the law requires the prosecuting agency to submit evidence of the eligibility for record restriction to the Georgia Crime Information Center that oversees criminal histories in Georgia.
Call The Hernan Law Firm right now at (678) 275-4000 if you or a loved one were arrested for possession of marijuana in Gwinnett County, or anywhere in Georgia.
We look forward to serving you and delivering justice in your case.