Drug Sale & Distribution Charges Against Juveniles
How an Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Juveniles facing charges for selling or distributing drugs are at risk of negative consequences that are more serious than those they would face for simple drug possession charges. When young people are accused of this type of crime, they can end up being forced to spend time in a juvenile detention center and can be subject to other penalties as well.
While juvenile offenders are often given opportunities to take part in other probation, rehabilitative programs and community service in place of confinement, more serious offenses such as drug sale or drug distribution can lead to higher chances of confinement. With the help of a highly skilled Atlanta criminal defense attorney, however, it might be possible to minimize—or even completely remove—the threat that a minor might be facing. The Law Office of Matthew T. McNally handles a wide span of juvenile crimes (related to drug offenses and many other offenses) and is ready to provide legal assistance.
The Sale and Distribution of Drugs by High School Students
National statistics show that many high school students who are involved in the sale of drugs on or around their school campuses. According to the findings of a 2012 study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 44% of high school students said they know another student who sells drugs at their school. When asked what types of drugs were sold on their campuses, 91% of the respondents said marijuana, 24% said prescription drugs, 9% said cocaine and 7% said ecstasy.
In addition to school grounds, high school students can also be accused of selling or distributing drugs in other areas, whether there are on private property or in public parks. These offenses can become even more serious when they are considered to be at the "trafficking" level, which usually includes selling or distributing larger amounts of a drug, especially across state lines.
Understanding Georgia's Laws
Juvenile offenders (those under the age of 17) do not receive the same penalties as adults, even when the offense is the same. According to Georgia Code, it is against the law to sell or distribute any controlled substance. For adults, these offenses are considered felonies when they involve drugs that fall within the Section I or Section II category (meaning they are among the most serious drugs). A conviction for this type of offense can lead to imprisonment lasting between 5 and 30 years for adult offenders, according to O.C.G.A. §16-13-30. The Sale and distribution of less serious drugs can result in less serious sentences. The amount of the drug and the offender's criminal history also play major factors in the penalties that result from a drug crime conviction.
When juveniles are adjudicated for the same type of offense, they are tried in juvenile court. Instead of these the penalties an adult would face, they can be ordered to time in a juvenile detention facility or another facility designed for juvenile offenders, probation, community service, payment of restitution, payment of fees, treatment/rehabilitation programs, or a combination of these penalties. Offenses that would normally be at the felony level for an adult can lead to up to 30 days of confinement in a youth development center (or 30 days in a treatment program) for a juvenile offender.
If a juvenile is found guilty of trafficking certain amounts of illegal drugs, he or she can be considered a designated felon (a titled reserved for youth found guilty of more serious offenses). In this type of case, the juvenile can end up being initially confined to a youth development center for 12 to 60 months, followed by intensive supervision for 12 months, according to O.C.G.A. §15-11-63.
Building a Solid Defense Plan
When a juvenile is charged with a drug crime, contacting a highly qualified criminal defense lawyer who is able to handle drug crimes should be the first line of action. By taking immediate action, the legal professional has more time to build a strategic defense plan for the accused young person. There are many ways sales and distribution drug charges can be challenged. It might be possible to show that there was a case of mistake identify, that evidence against the juvenile was obtained illegally by law enforcement or even just that there is not enough substantial evidence to prove the juvenile's guilt.
For more information about how our Atlanta criminal defense attorney might be of assistance in your case, contact our office. You will be able to take advantage of a free consultation.