A first offense paraphernalia charge carries a maximum punishment of $500.00 fine (no jail). Jail is provided for on a subsequent offense. But a guilty conviction is still a conviction, and it is for your lifetime. Maryland judges are typically very lenient in granting a "probation before judgment (pbj)" disposition on first offenders (you must ask for it), which means, even though you are found guilty after trial or you plead guilty, the judge can strike the guilty finding and place you on probation for a period of time, plus fine you some amount (seldom the full $500). Many of the prosecutors 'offices have implemented polices to offer first time offenders another option: a drug class or community service program, which if you agree to participate and complete, will result in the charges being dismissed. Either way, a pbj or a dismissal will enable you to file an expungement petition to erase all evidence of the charge (and permit you to deny you were even cited). The distinction is, you have to wait three years before filing an expungement after receiving a pbj, but you can file immediately after a dismissal. Defendants (or their lawyers) always form a line about a half hour before court starts to meet and speak with the prosecutor who will be standing at the prosecutor's table in the courtroom. Ask the prosecutor about any diversion programs available, or any other deal he/she is offering to deal with the charge. If you are uncomfortable with what is being offered, then ask that your case be called so you can request a postponement to apply for the public defender.
I am licensed in MD as well as MN. It is a misdemeanor in MD. You will not get jail time if it is your first offense, but a conviction could have many adverse "collateral" consequences such as hurting future employment prospects or eligibility for financial aid for college. You can ask the prosecutor for a PBJ (probation before judgment) which means there would be no conviction on your record and thus no "collateral" consequences. If you cannot get it resolved to your satisfaction at the first appearance, then ask for a continuance to apply for and receive a Public Defender.
If you are offered diversion, which typically consistst of drug awareness education and community service, in exchange for nolle prosequi or stet, then take advantage of it. If not, then ask the judge for postponement, in order to apply for the public defender. OPD requires two pay stubs or an affidavit from the person, who supports you financially. You might want to be prepared, so that you do not have to travel back and forth more than necessary.
Any finding against you, even probation before judgment, might cost you eligibility for student financial aid. Nolle prosequi and stet, even if they require you to travel to complete the drug education and community service, are better than losing your student aid. Likewise, if you have to fight this, you had better have an attorney from OPD, because the state will be represented by an attornye.
Information in the reply is provided as a public service. It is neither a comprehensive statement of the law nor legal advice, and no one should rely on it as such. If you have a legal problem or question, you should consult with an attorney, who can investigate the particular circumstances of your situation. Responding to a post does not constitute legal representation. I am not your lawyer, until we make an agreement and I receive my fee. Beware that posts and replies are not confidential. Anyone can read them.
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