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Georgia: Possession of marijuana and paraphernalia

Athens, GA |

So I got caught with possession of under an oz. of marijuana and drug related objects. When they took my stuff I had everything in a draw string bag and in it were a sploof, a mason jar with bagged marijuana and a scale. I had no intention to distribute/sell nor have I ever sold, and I only kept the marijuana in the bag in the jar to keep the smell in and scale to measure out after I bought it to make sure I didn't get skimped. I was only charged with possession and drug related objects but I talked to lawyer and she said that since there was a scale involved the prosecutor could look at it as intent to distribute, even though I was only arrested for possession and paraphernalia. Is this true? Could my charges be changed when I show up for my court date?

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Attorney answers 6


Yes, that is true. A prosecutor can change and / or increase the charges based upon what he or she thinks the facts can prove. I suggest that you get a lawyer so that you can be prepared for whatever you end up facing.


The prosecutors don't care if you ADMIT intent to distribute or not. You can deny it all you want. But they will argue that the scale is the tool of a dealer, not a buyer. The cops will say something like, "it is common in my experience as a police officer to find scales just like these in the hands of violent drug dealers."

It's great that the officer didn't charge you with possession with intent because that kept your bail amount low, but the prosecutor can increase the charges if he wants.

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But did not act against the officers, in fact the officer and I had a little bit of small talk. IF the officer suggests that I only had these things for personal use and not for sale or distribution is there a chance that the prosecutor will not try to charge it as intent for sale?

John Arnold Steakley

John Arnold Steakley


The prosecutor is going to charge you with the most serious thing he can possibly justify so that he maximizes the amount of leverage over you. It isn't his job to be fair or to be your friend or to try to help you out. He exists to convict people. It's his job.


The prosecutor has discretion to charge you in the indictment or accusation with whatever crimes they believe you may have committed. Possession of the scale could be considered to show your intent to distribute. You likely need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about this matter. It is dangerous to proceed in a criminal charge without representation. This is especially true if you end up charged with a felony.

Please also be aware that your drivers' license or privilege to drive in Georgia can be affected by a conviction for a drug charge in this state.


Your charges could be changed when you show up for court. This does not mean they will. In Philadelphia where I practice, it is relatively uncommon.


Intent is something that prosecutors prove circumstantially. Based upon what is present, the prosecutors can argue, and the jury can infer, that you had an intent to distribute the marijuana present. The more marijuana present, the stronger the distribution case. Moreover, packaging larger quantities of marijuana into individual, user packages is also evidence of intent to distribute. Finally, scales are considered strong evidence of intent. The only good thing going for you is that the total weight is less than an ounce (a common user quantity). You also haven't said anything about drug distribution records and/or money. If you did not have a lot of money on you, that will help your case as well. However, with the multiple packages and the scales, this case can go either way. You can be pretty sure that the prosecutor will present these charges as an intent case. However, you may be able to plea this case down to simple possession.

Allen R. Knox
125 TownPark Drive, Suite 300
Kennesaw, GA 30144
(678) 334-1399


The short answer is yes the prosecutor can change the charges. As a former prosecutor, I can say first hand that amending the charge is common practice for a prosecutor. Many times they add additional charges or change the original charge from possession to possession with intent. They will review the case and make their own assessment of the case because the prosecutor is the one who has to prove the case if it goes to trial. If they do up grade the charges, it is still a possibility that your attorney can negotiate it back down to simple possession.

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