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
- Fine: Up to $1,000 for
marijuana/Court's discretion for other controlled
substances (like heroin, cocaine, etc.).
- Jail: 1 - 15 years depending on
- 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
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
- 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.
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