Visit us at: www.portnerandshure.com
or call to speak with one of our experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys at (301) 854-9000 for a free consultation.
Maryland Decriminalizes Marijuana, Cuts into Criminal Defense Attorney Businesses
On October 1st, several new laws took effect in Maryland. The most newsworthy change is making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana punishable by a civil citation rather than a criminal penalty. Under the new law, fines range from $100 for a first offense to $500 for a third offense. The change does not mean that marijuana is legalized in Maryland, it just means that possessing less than 10 grams results in a citation and no criminal charges.
The interesting thing to look at now will be the effect on criminal defense attorneys. Before the change, people knew they needed a lawyer to help them fight a marijuana possession charge. However, now people will likely think they will not need a criminal attorney because they can take care of the citation on their own. Thus, many defense attorneys believe that this law change will substantially cut down business on marijuana possession cases.
Like every new law, there are potential issues and loopholes that people should be aware of. For example, possession of paraphernalia is still a criminal offense punishable up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Another issue could be the impact the new law has on defendants' Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures. Police are allowed to issue citations for probable cause if they believe a person has less than 10 grams of marijuana. There is a potential for a tremendous amount of challenges to searches. One final issue is whether a citation for marijuana possession under 10 grams would be considered a probation violation. New marijuana citations are akin to speeding tickets, which are not considered violations of probation. However, it would appear that marijuana citations could still be considered a violation of probation because marijuana is still an illegal drug and most probation contracts prohibit use of illegal drugs.
It will certainly be interesting to see the effect the new law has on criminal defense attorneys and whether any changes are made to this law or related laws.
If you or a family member has been charged with a criminal drug act and would like a free legal consultation please feel free to contact our office at (301) 854-9000 or visit us on the web at www.portnerandshure.com