Atlanta law enforcement officers often disregard a suspect’s constitutional rights when enforcing drug possession laws. The Fourth Amendment is not considered when officers search and seize drugs in someone’s car, pocket, or home. There are countless cases involving homes where police officers, especially in more rural counties, knock down the door with a Swat team, without a warrant.
There are many cases in the city where officers use their sixth sense to smell non-existent marijuana in someone’s car. All it takes to have a warrantless search of a car is the odor of marijuana and there is no way to preserve that smell and test an officer for it later. If an officer claims to have smelled the odor of marijuana, whether it was burnt or unburnt, he is going to ask the driver to exit the vehicle and will proceed to search the vehicle without a warrant.
When those facts come up in court, a judge more often than not believes that the officer smelled marijuana. Even if the marijuana the officer found was sealed in double tight vacuum bags and was completely unburnt, the judge will side with the officer. Minor traffic stops are the breeding ground for these types of arrests and for officers to conduct these warrantless searches.
It is crucial to have a drug defense lawyer who will go through the steps necessary to challenge an officer’s background including disciplinary histories in training. The lawyer obtains information from a person’s case in support of attacking officers for their truthfulness and whether or not they are making things up just to make a case.
The differences between different court systems in the counties around Atlanta are enormous. The absence of a diversion program in Gwinnett County is a crucial starting point for cases that begin there. The presence of diversion programs in many municipal, state, and superior courts in other counties provide a wonderful starting point for drug cases in Atlanta.
The common practice in many courts is to treat marijuana cases less seriously. The legislature has gone forward to take a step closer to decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana of less than an ounce by preventing that charge and conviction from going on someone’s permanent criminal history, the criminal history that employers can view.
The practice of many courts in the city of Atlanta area dealing with more serious drug crimes, especially for first time offenders, is to offer a path to a second chance without the use of the crucial first offender plea or the use of a conditional discharge under Georgia law. These are akin to a free pass in a way but that doesn’t mean the person gets off without punishment.
Drugs are taken very seriously in the South, even in the metropolitan area like Atlanta. Prosecutors, whether they offer a diversion, a dismissal, or some alternative path to resolve a case, often attempt to impose harsh punishments on defendants. It is crucial that an individual has a lawyer who knows the local practices, the policies of the district attorneys, solicitor generals, municipal court prosecutors, and how they treat different cases so that a person doesn’t receive a severe punishment in a case that could have been resolved quite easily and painlessly.