As a Criminal Defense Lawyer, I might otherwise be inclined to note that there really is no “typical case,” and that each case is unique. While that’s true, there are some things that follow certain patterns, and Possession of Marijuana cases are no different. In this article, we’ll talk about one of the more common scenarios leading up to a Possession of Marijuana charge, the Traffic Stop.
In my 20 years of handling Marijuana cases, I have probably seen a “Possession” charge in every imaginable circumstance. For all of that, however the most common situation involves a Traffic Stop.
We will not be focusing much on the legality of the Traffic Stop itself; that would involve writing a big, fat, legal textbook rather than a Blog article. For our purposes, understand that as a Defense Lawyer, I always look to see if there are grounds to reasonably, successfully challenge the Traffic Stop. If so, then that’s an option. In most cases, however, the reality of the situation is that the Judge isn’t going to listen to the Police Officer testify as to his or her reason for pulling you over, and then say something like “that’s baloney…this case is DISMISSED!”
The typical call in my Office is from someone who got pulled over for one reason or another, and was found with weed. Most of my Clients have no prior drug record, but a fair share of them do have a prior conviction. In either case, the Client wants, first and foremost, to avoid any Jail time.
This is were I can get a little angry about some of the things I hear. When I hear, for example, from someone who has no prior convictions, and they tell me they’re calling around for a Lawyer, and that one or another with whom they’ve spoken has told them that they’ll keep them out of Jail, I get mad. Not because I think there’s any chance of them going to Jail, but because I know, right off the bat, that the person is almost certainly NOT going to Jail, and that kind of scare-tactic sales pitch is, well, baloney.
That’s about as accurate and honest as a Dentist finding a cavity and telling the Patient “I can fill that, and this way your brain won’t swell up and your skull won’t explode.” It was never going to happen, anyway. Ditto for Jail in a first offense weed case.
In fact, in 20 years and countless weed cases, I honestly cannot ever recall a single Client in a first offense Possession case going to Jail, or even coming close to it, for that matter.
n fact, in 20 years and countless weed cases, I honestly cannot ever recall a single Client in a first offense Possession case going to Jail, or even coming close to it, for that matter.
So what does this mean? It means my focus in handling such a case is avoiding the kinds of things that reasonable MIGHT happen to someone facing this charge. It means I focus on keeping the whole thing off of their Record. It means I focus on getting my Client the most lenient, least intrusive, lightweight term of Probation possible.
If a person has no prior Drug Convictions, they are eligible for a deal, called a “7411,” which means that the whole thing is kept secret, and never goes on their Record. The person will plead “guilty” to the Possession charge, with an agreement that the Judge will not actually “find” them guilty, and if they complete a term of Probation (it can be either Reporting Probation, or Non-Reporting Probation, that’s up to the Judge), the whole matter is dismissed. Gone. Thrown in the trash.
This is HUGE. Under the law, anyone who is convicted of, or pleads guilty to a Possession of Marijuana charge will have the thing reported to the Secretary of State, and their Driver’s License will be Suspended for 6 months. They cannot drive at all for the first 30 days, but the Court can issue a Restricted License for the remaining 5 months after that. Insurance companies love that. Want to bet no-one’s rates have ever gone DOWN as a result of a Drug Crime Suspension?
This 7411 deal avoids that. Since the whole thing is essentially kept in the Judge’s desk drawer, the Secretary of State never hears about it, there is no License Suspension, and a whole bunch of money is saved.
For those with a prior Drug conviction, 7411 is not an option. While a person with a prior, who picks up another charge is inching closer to the Jailhouse doors, part of the Plea bargaining process in these cases is to get a deal which avoids Jail. Again, in my 20 years, I have never had a Client in a 2nd Offense case go to Jail, either.
Equally as important as staying out of Jail in a 2nd (or even 3rd) Offense case is avoid Probation from Hell. Look, let’s be realistic. From a Judge’s point of view, a 2nd or 3rd timer doesn’t present themselves as an overwhelming chance of success. They can count on a more restrictive term of Probation than any 1st timer. Again, that’s just reality. My focus, in these cases, is to help the Client minimize that Probation, and avoid too many Conditions of Probation.
There’s a lot that goes into that, and beyond just hiring a Lawyer, the Client is going to have to spend some time with me in the Office going over how that must be done. For what it’s worth, a few hours Office time with your Lawyer certainly beats the hell out of countless hours and trips to give urine drops and attend classes or counseling that might otherwise have been avoided.
Most of these cases start with seeing the Police Car lights in the rear-view mirror. There’s that nervousness that goes with the approaching Officer, followed by that sinking feeling when the marijuana is discovered. You know, at that point, that it’s not going to be good, but that doesn’t mean it has to end so badly. With a little effort, a Possession charge can, in essence be made to “go away,” or, if not, then at least not be as bad as you might have feared, at first.
So who do you hire? You hire the Lawyer that seems to fit best with you. You check out websites, and read what Lawyers have written. You send e-mails, and/or call around. Fees are an issue, but by no means should a person be looking for the “low bidder” in this type of, or any Criminal Case, for that matter. Neither, however, should a person equate a huge fee with good results. Finally, always remember, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. After all, these cases tend to follow a certain pattern, and it’s the same pattern seen by the Police, the Prosecutors, the Defense Lawyers, and, most importantly, the Judges.