Although Colorado and Washington have decriminalized the use of marijuana and more than 20 states have allowed prescribing and limited possession of medical marijuana, the recreational drug still remains a sure ticket to prison in the rest of the country.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2012, there were 1,552,432 drug arrests nationwide, slightly higher than in 2011, among which nearly half were for marijuana possession and use. That’s one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds in 2012, for possession only, and one arrest every 42 seconds for distribution, the same as in 2011.
Advocacy groups supporting the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana believe prosecuting people for use and possession of marijuana is a waste of the already-limited law enforcement resources, when they could deploy all forces towards violent crimes.
The latest Gallup poll results reveal that more than half of the Americans surveyed on the matter favored the end of marijuana prohibition. 58 percent were in favor of legalization,and only 39 percent opposed. The data shows a significant increase of 10% since last year, when Washington and Colorado declared marijuana use legal.
Socio-Economic Consequences for Arrestees
People arrested are, most of the times, handcuffed and taken to the police station, where they have their picture and fingerprints taken and sent to the FBI, never to be sealed or expunged from their records. Typically, some will spend at least 24 hours before appearing before a judge, while others are given a citation for a court appearance and then released.
In most cases, people choose to plead guilty for marijuana possession, a crime that can either be treated as a Class A misdemeanor or Class C felony, depending primarily on the defendant’s criminal record and whether or not the drug was intended for personal use only. Penalties for misdemeanor possession of marijuana are maximum one year in jail and a fine of $2,000. Other costs incurred in a drug misdemeanor case, including bail, attorney’s fees and court expenses, can add up to $5,000.
A marijuana conviction, however, will impact the life of the defendant in numerous ways, ranging from child custody issues, federally-insured student loans, the right to vote, the right to possess firearms, the right to reside in subsidized housing to the ability to adopt children or obtain welfare benefits. A misdemeanor will remain on the record for at least 3 years and a felony for at least five before it can be expunged by a court of law, period during which it can affect the chances of accessing housing and future employment.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help an individual caught using or possessing marijuana avoid prison terms and the serious consequences a local orfederal arrest can bring about. Whether guilty or not guilty, the criminal defendant faces a long and grueling procedure, often resulting in conviction and harsh sentence upon failing to demonstrate the evidence is flawed and the allegations false.
A legal counselor will clearly explain all available options to you, making sure the chosen course of action is in your best interest. If the current charge is a first offense, the likelihood of being released with low bail until the trial are high, allowing you and your attorney to prepare a defense and avoid prison terms.
About the Author
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.