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Drug Offenses and DUI-Contraband

While a DUI offense involving drugs may be prosecuted by the State even where the drugs are prescribed by a physician, special rules apply to DUI-contraband cases. These cases involve illegal substances (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) in the driver's blood system. The DUI offense here is based upon driving while having an unlawful substance in your blood system.

Although this issue is currently on appeal, the prosecutor is not currently required to prove impairment caused by the illegal contraband drugs in your system. Mere proof of the presence of a contraband substance or its "metabolites" is sufficient to render a conviction. However, recent case law (Love v. State) holds that if a person has marijuana present in his/her system, the State must prove that the person was rendered incapable of driving safely as a result of using the marijuana. This is true because someone could legally have traces of marijuana in his or her bloodstream (e.g. coming into Georgia on a flight from Amsterdam where use of marijuana is legal), so that the law is overly broad in its scope.

Beyond the misdemeanor DUI-contraband penalties set forth above, Georgia law has other more punitive statutes for possession of drugs when marijuana or other drugs are found in a vehicle or someone's pocket. A "possession" offense may be committed by a person driving a car, or by a person not operating a car. Other drugs are often found in the person's pockets or in the vehicle. As covered hereafter, your driver's license can and will be suspended upon a guilty plea or a conviction for possession of drugs, EVEN IF you were not driving when arrested. This law has been upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court after an appeal on challenges to its constitutionality.

First Conviction on Possession of Controlled Substance (Felony) or Marijuana (Misdemeanor or Possible Felony depending upon if a repeat offense and quantity)
  • Fine: Up to $1,000 for marijuana/Court's discretion for other controlled substances (like heroin, cocaine, etc.).
  • Jail: 1 - 15 years depending on the substance.
  • Community Service: Up to 12 months of Community Service for possession of marijuana.
  • License Suspension: 180-day minimum. 181 days after conviction, offenders may apply to the Department of Public Safety for possible early reinstatement of driving privileges by submitting proof of completion of a Risk Reduction Program and paying a reinstatement fee in the amount of $200 (mail-in) or $210 (walk-in). No "work" permit whatsoever is allowed for "drug" offenders.

These are minimum sentences for a first offense on possession of a controlled substance. Driving a car while in possession of these controlled substances is not an element of the offense. In other words, the person can be standing inside a building and be in possession of marijuana or other controlled substances and lose driving privileges. Additional penalties may be set at the discretion of the judge/court depending on the severity of the offense and substance. Depending on the quantity of drugs and whether the current charge is a first offense may determine whether the case will be a felony or a misdemeanor.

Second Conviction on Possession of Controlled Substance or Marijuana (Felony)
  • Fine: At the Judge's discretion
  • Jail: 1 - 30 years depending on the substance
  • License Suspension: One-year minimum. Repeat offenses result in successive (consecutive) license suspension periods. After one year, offenders may apply to the Department of Public Safety for possible early reinstatement of driving privileges by submitting proof of completion of a Risk Reduction Program and paying a reinstatement fee in the amount of $200 (mail-in) or $210 (walk-in). No "work" permit available.

These are minimum sentences for a second offense on possession of a controlled substance. Additional penalties may be set at the discretion of the judge/court depending on the severity of offense and substance. A second offense can be disposed of as a misdemeanor, but is a matter of negotiation for the District Attorney, defense attorney and trial judge.

NOTE: Upon conviction for possession of any contraband drug, in any amount, the law calls for a suspension of an offender's driver's license regardless of whether the offender was operating a motor vehicle at the time of arrest.

Any conviction of DUI or possession of marijuana or other controlled substance requires mandatory participation in the Risk Reduction Program in order to apply to the Department of Public Safety for possible reinstatement of driver's license. Suspensions will not "age off," so as to automatically entitle you to drive once again. Application must be made, and fees paid before driving privileges will be restored. Under certain conditions, a "nolo contendere" plea or a "first offender" plea may save a person's right to drive. Each case must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

For additional information, click the category of interest below.

 › A DUI Conviction is Forever
 › Legal Limits of Alcohol Concentration - Three Different Standards
 › DUI - "drugs" and DUI - "alcohol and drugs"
 › What Does the Five-Year "Look-back" Period Relate to?
 › DUI First offense
 › Plea of Nolo Contendere
 › DUI Second Offense/Guilty Plea or Being Found Guilty at Trial
 › Drug Offenses and DUI-Contraband
 › Driver's License Consequences
 › Filing An "Appeal" (Request For Hearing)