The Supreme Court of Georgia is reversing a Columbia County judge's decision to dismiss a methamphetamine trafficking charge and 10-year sentence against a man.
The case of Thomas Benjamin Nankervis Jr. will head back to a trial court for sentencing after the Supreme Court ruled that Nankervis was sentenced under the wrong statute.
A jury originally returned a guilty verdict on the meth trafficking charge against Nankervis, according to the Supreme Court, but a Columbia County judge decided that the meth trafficking statute was unconstitutional.
The judge sentenced Nankervis to only eight years under the statute that outlaws manufacturing meth instead of sentencing him to 10 years under the meth trafficking statute.
Under the state's meth trafficking statute, judges can reduce the sentences of defendants who help the state identify and convict others illegally involved in drugs. The trial judge who sentenced Nankervis reasoned that because Nankervis was in no position to help the state convict others and was therefore ineligible for a reduced sentence, his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection would be violated if he was sentenced under the meth trafficking statute.
However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the meth trafficking statute is constitutional, and is sending Nankervis' case back to a Columbia County trial court with the recommendation that the court enter judgment for trafficking meth and sentence Nankervis accordingly.
Nankervis was stopped by an officer in April 2011 for driving erratically and weaving across lanes, according to the Supreme Court. Officers saw an open container of beer, and when they searched the van, they found a variety of items used to make meth and less than one gram of meth.