I recently received a question similar to the one below on how a marijuana case should be defended for someone under twenty-one years old. Please see my answer for helpful advice on defending a similar marijuana charge.
Q: I am 19 years old and was arrested for having a very small (about a gram) of pot on me. What is the best and worst case scenario for my case? Should I talk to the prosecutor alone? I’ve heard I could plead ‘nolo’ and at least save my Georgia Driver’s License, is this true?
It is never a good idea to ‘go it alone’ when it comes to defending yourself against criminal charges in Georgia. Prosecutors are well trained in the law, and their job security depends, to a certain degree, on convictions, not ‘cutting breaks’. In even a seemingly simple marijuana possession charge in Georgia, there are many, many angles to be analyzed when deciding how to pursue a case. For instance, there are sometimes pretrial diversion programs, Georgia conditional discharge pleas, and Georgia first offender pleas, which each contain unique benefits and potential pitfalls.
For Georgia drivers under 21 years old, the Georgia driver’s license suspension rules are unforgiving. No contest pleas hardly ever save a minor’s (under 21) license, even though they would save the license of an adult. Often times marijuana and alcohol possession charges carry a driver’s license suspension for those drivers under 21 as well. While the Georgia Department of Driver Service has black and white rules, with hardly any flexibility, having an experienced and knowledgeable Georgia defense attorney will pay off when attempting to salvage your rights, like the right to drive.
For young clients, the goal is usually to give you a fresh start; that is, to prevent one bad decision from following you for life. The worst thing a minor can do is to simply go into court looking for the easy way out, like a simple guilty plea. While some courts may allow you to simply pay a fine and walk, remember: a Georgia criminal conviction is forever. Your Georgia criminal record will memorialize your mistakes for the rest of your life, with employers, schools, and all government officials having access to your past convictions.