Do first-time drug offenders have to go to jail in Georgia?

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Unfortunate circumstances and a few questionable decisions can put a person in a legal bind. Sometimes people with no other issues find themselves dabbling in occasional drug use that leads to criminal charges.

When a person has no prior record, the individual may wonder about the potential for leniency in Georgia for first-time drug offenders.

Common ramifications of drug possession charges

Georgia views most drug possession convictions as felonies. These charges appear on a person’s criminal record and background checks. A person may have limited access to housing, college financial aid and certain types of employment.

The sentences for controlled substances depend on their classifications. Most drugs lead to the possibility of one to two years of incarceration at a minimum. Defendants can find it very difficult to avoid jail time unless the amount of the substance is minimal. First-time offenders also receive six-month suspensions of their driver’s licenses.

The Georgia First Offender Act and conditional discharge

The Georgia First Offender Act aims to give defendants a chance to keep a conviction of their record. First-time offenders who meet certain conditions may qualify for this program. The program is only open to those not facing charges of a serious sexual offense, DUI or violent felony. Successfully entering the program requires the judge’s approval and cooperation with the prosecutor.

The program involves reduced fines and probation time. However, the defendant may still have to serve some jail time.

In some instances of possession, a person could ask for a conditional discharge. The judge can dismiss the charges once the defendant completes various requirements. This alternative is a one-time option that requires strict adherence to the program details.

In some circumstances, first-time offenders may be able to avoid incarceration. Doing so requires careful consideration of current laws and meeting the state’s demands.