By Erin Gerstenzang

Fulton County Drug Charge VGCSAWere you recently arrested for drug possession in Fulton County, Georgia? If so you should immediately speak with an experienced defense attorney to learn about the consequences you may be facing and what you can do to avoid harsh penalties!

The severity of the consequences for felony drug possession may vary depending on a number of factors, including which county you were arrested in, whether you’ve been arrested before, whether you are already on probation, and the amount of drugs discovered in your possession.

Fulton County Drug Charge VGCSAIf this is your first drug possession arrest, your primary goal is going to be to keep a felony conviction from being reported on your criminal record. Drug convictions do not fall off your record after any amount of time; rather, a standard drug conviction will stay on your permanent record.   This could mean that for almost all future job or college applications you would be required to answer very uncomfortable questions pertaining to the drug arrest and conviction.

The first thing an experienced attorney will do is to review the circumstances surrounding the initial encounter with the law enforcement officer. Often drug possession charges start with a basic traffic stop. The driver is pulled over for something as common as failure to obey a traffic control device.

Fulton County Drug Charge VGCSAThe officer makes contact with the driver and over the course of the traffic investigation, the officer usually will either (1) detect the odor of marijuana – or some other illegal substance; or (2) request and/or demand permission to search the car.

These search scenarios are particularly interesting cases because they often implicate important constitutional protections that are often ignored by law enforcement. Particularly when the driver is young and nervous an officer may be less cautious about steering clear of any constitutional pitfalls over the course of the stop and search of that driver.

Fulton County Drug Charge VGCSAThis was the case recently in Bodiford v. State (A14A0683), which was decided in August of 2014. In that case a young driver was pulled over for speeding 10 mph over the speed limit. The officer had the driver exit the vehicle. Upon noticing that the driver appeared very nervous the officer expanded his investigation. He inquired about the status of the driver’s license and ultimately started fishing around for permission to search the vehicle. The driver didn’t know whether he could refuse permission.

Fulton County Drug Charge VGCSAWhile the driver tried to determine what to do, the officer brought a K-9 unit over to conduct a drug sniff search around the car. During the drug-dog search the officer uncovered a large amount of cocaine. However, this search was determined to be illegal since the officer had impermissibly prolonged the traffic stop.  As a result, the drug charge was dismissed.

Bodiford v. State is a great example of why challenging the legality of a search is one of the most effective ways to dismantle a pending drug possession charge.

If you are facing a felony drug possession charge, you should talk to an attorney about what your options are and find out whether you have important defenses available in your case!