1. 100 kilograms or more; 1st degree controlled substance crime; Up to 30 years and $1 million.
2. 50 kilograms or more; 2nd degree controlled substance crime; Up to 25 years and $500,000;
3. 10 kilograms or more; 3rd degree controlled substance crime; Up to 20 years and $250,000;
4. 42.5 grams to 10 kilo;5th degree controlled substance crime; Up to 5 years and $10,000;
5. Less than 42.5 grams; Petty misdemeanor; non criminal $200 fine and drug education.
In addition to the criminal penalties, civil penalties may apply including a forfeiture action. A forfeiture means that the prosecutor may seek to retain money or property by seeking to have it forfeited to the state as property used or derived from the commission of a criminal offense. This includes cash that the person may have had with them, vehicles they may have been using or even homes where drug offense are alleged to have occurred. The evidence will be held without releasing it so long as there is an ongoing investigation. Often, prosecutors will attempt to forfeit the property permanently. It is often possible to file a lawsuit seeking the return of your property.
The collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction are also severe. Even a minor drug offense conviction may result in the inability to work in certain fields. For example, a drug conviction can disqualify a person from ever working in the health care field in almost any capacity. It may also impact employment in many other careers, particularly jobs that require a background check or security clearance. Background checks may also be performed for those seeking to rent a residence. A conviction may result in a denial. Finally, a conviction for a drug offense can have a significant impact on immigration and, in some instance, may result in deportation for non U.S. citizens.
Given the significant impact of drug offenses, consulting with experienced legal counsel is imperative at an early stage so that all defenses can be explored and evidence challenged. Obviously, there are many defenses to such a charge and clearly aggressive representation is necessary to avoid or reduce potential penalties. Often, the defenses do not become apparent until all facts are reviewed and complete discovery is provided. In many cases, there may be a basis to challenge the seizure of the evidence based on constitutional protections to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If a constitutional violation has occurred in the seizure of evidence, the contraband resulting from the search may be suppressed along with any other evidence discovered as part of the search.
On many first offenses, the defendant may be eligible for a "conditional discharge." This is also sometimes called a Stay of Prosecution or a Stay of Adjudication or is part of a "Diversion" programm. It means the charges may be dismissed prior to trial if the defendant completes a term of probation following all probationary conditions. Those conditions may include remaining law abiding, completing drug abuse treatment or a chemical use education program, and participating in random drug testing.
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