Simple Possession of Marijuana is an unclassified misdemeanor for the first offense and carries a jail sentence of up to thirty (30) days and up to a $500 fine. In addition if convicted your privilege to drive will be suspended for six (6) months. If convicted of a second or subsequent offense it is considered a class one misdemeanor with up to one (1) year in jail, up to a $2500 fine and a license suspension of six (6) months.
There may be many defenses to possession of marijuana. One of the most frequent issues involves search and seizure. Very often the police conduct searches of homes, vehicles and of your person to locate illegal drugs. These searches and seizures can sometimes be of questionable legality. These issues can be very complicated and may require a separate Motion to Suppress Evidence to be conducted before trial or during the trial depending on the Court and the circumstances. Motions of this nature require pre-planning and research of the specific circumstances surrounding the search. Case law must be reviewed and other research tools may be required. During these hearings the rules of evidence are strictly applied by the Court including proper Notice to all parties and written briefs may be required. If these Motions are successful the evidence being presented may not be allowed by the Court and the case against you may be dismissed.
There are also potential issues with the Chain of Evidence that must be strictly complied with by the police and laboratory personnel that analyze and maintain an alleged drug. There are statutory requirement that must be complied with concerning the presentation of this evidence and Certificate of Analysis in Court and there may be a need to subpoena laboratory personnel.
Other testing issues can arise concerning proper analysis of alleged drugs as well as required Notices that must be given to the Defendant. There are other significant issues that may arise in these cases.
There is one issue that bears special attention. If you are arrested for a drug offense the police will often request that you provide them with information or participate in drug buys with the promise that you will be given additional consideration in your case. It is strongly suggested that you do not make statements to the police or agree to cooperate until and unless you consult an attorney. Very often these promises of consideration from the police are vague and not binding on the Prosecutor or Judge that may decide your case. If you are going to cooperate it is suggested that you do so through an attorney.
One potential outcome in these cases if there are no successful defenses is the ability to receive a disposition where you are essentially placed on a special probation whereby you submit to drug testing, counseling, community service and a six (6) month loss of license. After a specific period of time you will return to Court and have the charge dismissed. This opportunity is for first time offenders only.
A conviction for any drug offense can have a significant impact beyond the criminal penalties that can be imposed. There can be future issues with certain types of employment opportunities, security clearances and other considerations. Before appearing in Court you may want to consult an attorney to sort out these issues. It is advisable to contact an attorney well ahead of your court date due to the considerable preparation that is sometimes required in these matters.