Charged with Marijuana Possession? Here Are 9 Things You Should Know Before Your Arraignment

Here are 9 things you should know before you appear for your arraignment if you are charged with marijuana possession.   As a lawyer, I sometimes see people come in on their own and plead guilty without thinking through the consequences. Here are some things to remember:

1. Employment Consequences.

Do you really want to be applying for a job with a criminal conviction on your record? Marijuana Girl All employment applications ask about criminal convictions, and employers can run instant background checks online.

2. Immigration Consequences.

Convictions for possession of marijuana can lead to deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen.  There are ways to minimize the risk with a properly crafted plea deal, but a person definitely needs the assistance of a lawyer.

3. Chemical Dependency Evaluation.

A judge has the power to insist that you obtain a drug/alcohol evaluation, and that you comply with any recommended treatment as a condition of probation.  Yes, recreational pot users can very easily end up in a court-ordered 12-step program that lasts for 6 months, complete with court-ordered U.A. tests.

4. The Loss of Student Loan Eligibility.

If a student is convicted of marijuana possession after receiving Federal student aid money, he or she must notify the Financial Aid department of his college immediately and will become ineligible for further aid.  Many times, however, a student can enter a rehabilitation program that can make him or her eligible for federal financial aid again.

5. Mandatory Minimum Sentences.

Many states still have strict sentencing guidelines even for  possession of small amounts of marijuana. For example, in Washington State there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 24 hours in jail, and a $250 fine for a conviction for possession of marijuana.

6. Entry into Canada.

Getting into Canada can be difficult for Americans with criminal records. Other countries, such as in Europe, are not as picky.

7. Housing.

A drug conviction can make a person ineligible for federally subsidized housing, or can get a person kicked out of their housing.  Questions about drug convictions are also often asked on private rental applications. lawyer with girl

8. Child custody.

If you are, or will be, in a child custody dispute in court, be prepared for your ex to bring up any drug convictions you may have.  In addition, drug convictions can make you ineligible to adopt.

9. Welfare and Food Stamps.

A drug conviction can make you ineligible to receive welfare or food stamps.

Proving a marijuana possession charge can actually be pretty hard for a prosecutor.  Despite what some police officers think, the law requires that the State prove “knowing” possession.  So just because a drug was in your car, doesn’t mean that you are the one to be held responsible.  Additionally, a prosecution requires that a scientist or leaf-identification expert appear personally at the trial to testify that the substance is marijuana. Prosecutors know that jurors are often resentful of their time being wasted on people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

What would come of our nation’s marijuana laws if everyone insisted on a jury trial?

(See past blog posts about marijuana, and other tips for arraignments.)

What do you think about this subject?

2 Responses to “Charged with Marijuana Possession? Here Are 9 Things You Should Know Before Your Arraignment”

  • Horace:

    A marijuana possession arraignment can be pretty intense. Much of society teaches us that the drug is acceptable, but then you go into court, and realize how our system really views marijuana possession Washington State really needs to change its laws on this subject. There should even be an arraignment for a marijuana charge, you should just be able to pay a fine and be done with it. Instead you have to hire an attorney if you want to protect yourself or have any chance at all.

  • Stephanie:

    I have gone to court exactly twice in my life, and both times were for an arraignment for a marijuana charge. Once was in the 1980s, and the second time was this morning. I am packing up my shit and moving to California because for marijuana possession Washington state is just not a place to live. I don’t care if the prosecuting attorney issues a warrant. The are not going to extradite me for 11 grams of medical cannabis.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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