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Conditional Discharge of Drug Offenses in Georgia

Conditional Discharge (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2(a)) is a "first offender" type program specifically for drug offenses. Like First-Offender, you can use this provision once in your lifetime. Also, like First-Offender, it is only available at the discretion of the judge. However, I have personally never seen a judge deny sentencing under the Conditional Discharge statute. The benefit of Conditional Discharge is that once you complete the terms of your probation, the charge is effectively dismissed. [video width="360" height="240" mp4="http://www.carnellfirm.com/fullblog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/CD-Video-WP.mp4"][/video]   HOW IT WORKS First, it does not alter your sentence. If your plea agreement (or sentence) includes 2 years of probation, Conditional Discharge does not change that. You still do 2 years of probation. If your plea agreement includes a $1,000 fine, you still pay the fine. Conditional Discharge does not alter that. Conditional Discharge allows you to state, honestly, that you have never been convicted of a drug related offense. Because, at the conclusion of your probation, the judge re-opens your case and "discharges" it. The actual wording of the statute is as follows: "Upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the court shall discharge the person and dismiss the proceedings against him." ADVANTAGES Despite your plea of guilt (or conviction) you can state, honestly, that (by law) you have not been convicted (so long as you complete your probation). Despite your plea to a charge that carries several administrative consequences (ie loss of driving privileges, loss of eligibility to receive Federal student aid etc.) you will endure none of those. The actual wording of the statute is as follows: "Discharge and dismissal under this Code section shall be without court adjudication of guilt and shall not be deemed a conviction for purposes of this Code section or for purposes of disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime." DISADVANTAGES You will be on probation. This means having to pay the probationary fee, every month, until probation ends. I've seen this fee as high as $50 p/month. You will be subjected to random drug screens. You will have to deal with a moody probation officer who, generally, thinks those under his/her supervision are scum and won't lose any sleep over revoking your probation and sending you to jail. Should you violate ANY condition of your probation, the judge can enter an adjudication of guilt, thereby revoking all the benefits of the Conditional Discharge statute. The charge will still show up on your Georgia Crime Information Center criminal history. Underneath the charge, it will read "16-13-2: Conditional Discharge". Anyone who knows how to read this will know it means you were convicted or pled guilty. Fortunately, you can later apply for "Records Restriction" to limit access to this information (more on this here). CONCLUSION Conditional Discharge is usually the best option available to first-time drug offenders in counties/municipalities that do not have a Pretrial Intervention or Diversion Program (see more here). While Conditional Discharge does not offer all the same benefits PTI does, it is a way to shield yourself from some of the consequences of a drug conviction in Georgia. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with any drug offense in the State of Georgia, please visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. I can be reached via email at jason@carnellfirm.com or by phone at 770-729-4809. - Jason Carnell

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