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State v. Barrow

Court of Appeals of Georgia

May 14, 2015

THE STATE
v.
BARROW

Drug violation. Richmond Superior Court. Before Judge Roper.

Ashley Wright, District Attorney, Joshua B. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, for appellant.

David V. Weber, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 803

Miller, Judge.

Pursuant to a negotiated plea, James Allen Barrow pled guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine (OCGA § 16-13-30 (b)).[1] Over the State's objection, the trial court deferred entry of judgment on Barrow's plea pursuant to the conditional discharge for drug possession statute (OCGA § 16-13-2 (a)) and placed Barrow on probation for five years. The State then filed a motion to vacate or correct Barrow's sentence, which the trial court denied. The State appeals to this Court,[2] contending that Barrow is ineligible for conditional discharge because (1) he pled guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine, and (2) he had previously been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs (OCGA § 40-6-391 (a) (2)). For the reasons that follow, we agree and therefore reverse.

" The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo on appeal." (Citation omitted.) Jenkins v. State, 284 Ga. 642, 645 (2) (670 S.E.2d 425) (2008).

1. Since Barrow pled guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine, the State contends that he is ineligible for conditional discharge under OCGA § 16-13-2 (a), which is only available to defendants who have pled guilty to or been found guilty of drug possession. We agree.

Under OCGA § 16-13-2 (a), the trial court has the discretion to withhold an adjudication of guilt and defer sentencing for drug possession, with the possibility of a complete discharge and dismissal if the defendant successfully completes a probationary period. This statute has been compared to the State's " first offender" statute, OCGA § 42-8-60. See Andrews v. State, 276 Ga.App. 428, 430 (1) (623 S.E.2d 247) (2005).

In construing a statute, the determining factor is the intent of the legislature and we look first to the words of the statute to determine what that intent was and if those words [are] plain and unambiguous and the intent may be clearly gathered therefrom, we need look no further[.]

[332 Ga.App. 354] (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Early v. Early, 269 Ga. 415, 416 (499 S.E.2d 329) (1998); see also OCGA § 1-3-1.

Thus, to determine whether Barrow is eligible for conditional discharge, we must look to the language of OCGA § 16-13-2 (a),[3] which pertinently provides:

Whenever any person ... pleads guilty to or is found guilty of possession of a narcotic drug, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drug, the court may without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of such person defer further proceedings and place him on ...

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