In Georgia there are three levels of drug charges that are each treated more severely than the last. The lowest level drug charge that you can be charged with is possession, which typically occurs when someone has a drug only for their own personal use. The next most serious offense is possession with intent to distribute which most often occurs when a person has drugs that they intend to sell or give away. Following these two, the most serious level of drug offense is drug trafficking which is designed to go after people who are moving large quantity’s of drugs.
In Atlanta, drug trafficking charges are treated very severely and can result in serious prison sentences and extremely high fines. As a result, if you are charged with any type of drug trafficking offense it is imperative you seek the counsel of an Atlanta drug trafficking lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and begin building a defense. A drug attorney with experience in Atlanta will be able to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and help you prepare the strongest defense possible.
Going after people involved in drug distribution is currently a high priority for law enforcement officials in the Metro Atlanta area. In fact, the Metro Atlanta Drug Task Force was created for that purpose. It consists of members of the Atlanta police department, police departments from neighboring counties, GBI, and even the federal agencies.
These agencies are trying to stop Atlanta from serving as a hub for drug distribution. Specifically, drugs moving up from Florida and other coastal areas coming through Atlanta on their way to the northern cities such as Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Drugs that come through Atlanta are often repacked or broken down into small packages and then sent to other cities.
Law enforcement has determined that there are specialty car shops in the Atlanta area that build hidden compartments beneath the car where the drugs can be stored. That is a big business in Atlanta, and as a result the Metro Drug Task Force is going after those people.
In drug trafficking cases, the prosecution must first prove a series of basic issues such as:
As an aid to that, Georgia Legislature stepped in and said that certain quantities of drugs are considered to be trafficking per se, which has taken a lot of the burden off of the law enforcement. As an example, when a person has more than twenty-eight grams of cocaine in their possession, under Georgia law, that is considered to be trafficking per se.
The same is true for marijuana. If someone has more than ten pounds of marijuana in their possession, even if the truth is they were going to smoke it all personally, it is still considered to be trafficking. This has been a great aid for the law enforcement and for the prosecutors to prove their cases by proving that there is more than a certain amount, without having to prove the intent to sell or distribute.
With the legislature intervening to help the prosecution by setting weight limits above which drugs are considered to be resulting in trafficking, drug trafficking attorneys in Atlanta must really focus on the basics of the search and seizure and the legality of how the police found the drugs and other evidence. Many times it comes down to the elements of the Fourth Amendment and whether or not the individual’s rights were violated.
In drug distribution cases, the issues that arise include those that are found in any possession cases, such as the question of how the drugs were found, proof of possession, and other search and seizure issues. There are often additional constitutional issues with regards to electronic surveillance including the wiretapping of telephones, the interception of phone calls, reading of people’s emails, and Twitter accounts.
Law enforcement is getting much better at reading our electronic mails and social media. They often find valuable information, but they must do so within the confines of the Constitution. In fact, within the past year, the Georgia Supreme Court shut down certain efforts by the Drug Task Force to intercept cell phone calls. The court reiterated that the warrant requirement does apply and the officers must have probable cause to intercept these calls.
These are the things that the police use to find people who are trafficking and they must do those things lawfully. That is when drug trafficking lawyers in Atlanta have to focus on those issues and the legality of the actions by the police. Even when a person is guilty of trafficking, if the police broke the law when they found the evidence, that person is probably going to go free if they have a lawyer who can recognize those issues and prove them in a court of law.
An Atlanta drug trafficking lawyer can help by recognizing the legal issues involved in the case and helping a person prepare a defense to the charges. If the charges are very strong and defenses do not look equally strong, then the defense attorney can help the client come up with alternatives to pleading guilty such as getting involved in a drug court program, pre-trial diversion programs, intervention, conditional discharge or something of that nature.
The most important thing to look for when someone is choosing an attorney is the level of experience the attorney has in the type of law they are asking him to represent them in. When it comes to drug cases, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney experienced in drug cases. Someone looking for an attorney should ask the attorney about their trial experiences.
Many attorneys shy away from a trial process. They try to scare their clients into pleading guilty and that is really just laziness or cowardice on the part of the attorney. A person needs to know that they can trust their lawyer. If they enter some sort of plea deal, the only way they can know if that is the right choice is if that attorney frequently takes cases to trial. If an attorney won’t take a case to a jury trial, then he is no good for someone charged with a crime.