Marijuana penalties raised in Maryland

If you have ever been arrested for possessing marijuana, you may know that the state has been working to decriminalize the drug. You need to defend yourself regardless of the potential punishments; any drug charge can leave you frustrated and facing penalties. The benefit of decriminalization is that you can be caught with a drug and not face as serious of penalties. You could be asked to seek drug treatment or pay a penalty, but the charges wouldn’t usually affect you as seriously as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The House of Delegates has determined that a bill that raises fines for smoking marijuana in public is necessary in the state; the bill passed and will make public smoking a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.

The bill caused a rift in the house, with some people arguing that it would hurt the trust between the police and youth, while other said that exposing the public to marijuana smoke is a health hazard. With marijuana again criminalized, it could mean more arrests of the young with more people paying fines and seeing marks on their criminal records.

One delegate pointed out that smoking marijuana in public is already an illegal act, but under this bill, the punishment is harsh. The bill could have a disproportionate effect on black people, according to one delegate, while another argued that the fact was that she had to avoid certain places to avoid marijuana smoke. It’s not clear why, if the act is already illegal, the delegate had to avoid certain locations due to marijuana smoke.

Source: The Washington Times, “Maryland House passes bill that would strengthen marijuana penalties,” Anjali Shastry, March 21, 2016

Misdemeanors versus felonies: Distinguishing factors

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is able to be punished with up to a year spent in jail. The time spent in jail may take place in a local county jail instead of a high-security prison in some cases, which is helpful to those who are not violent or who committed only minor crimes. This also helps keep younger children or teens out of major prisons, as they are more likely to go to a juvenile facility.

Misdemeanors are typically minor enough that prosecutors have some leeway in the way they decide how to charge you and in how they request penalties to be carried out. That means you have a better chance of negotiating a plea bargain or lower sentence for the crime if you feel you’ll be convicted.

What is a felony?

A felony is the most serious type of crime you can be charged with. They are punishable by prison sentences of over a year. Punishments can be severe in these cases, so the court has to be very strict. Defendants’ rights are of the utmost concern in these cases, and their defense attorneys must be present. Felony punishments can range in severity, but it’s important that they match the crime.

Source: FindLaw, “What Distinguishes a Misdemeanor From a Felony?,” accessed April 22, 2016

Why should I get an expungement?

When you are convicted of a crime, one of the things you may be worried about is how that crime is going to affect you in the long term. One of the ways you can help yourself is by going through the expungement process. This court-ordered process seals your criminal record, which means it’s unable to be seen in most circumstances.

When an expungement is awarded to you, your arrests or convictions are sealed away from the public eye. That means that for the most part, no one will be able to see that part of your past. However, there are some cases where your record may be opened, like if the federal government needs to see your criminal record.

Your past may be used in some cases, like if you’re going through deportation proceedings or immigration proceedings or commit another crime following the expungement. The reason for this is that the expunged record will be able to be used as proof that you had a prior conviction, which might be a factor in your newest case.

When you want to get your record expunged or feel that your expunged record may affect you, your attorney can help you work through the legal implications. In most situations, your expunged records should not show up when employers, companies, or educational institutions look up your criminal record. If it is still affecting you after expungement, it’s wise to reach out and speak to the courts, because there could be something wrong or something that has not been handled correctly in the paperwork required.

 

Source: FindLaw, “Expungement Basics,” accessed May 13, 2016

Types of Misdemeanors in Maryland

A misdemeanor charge is not as serious as a felony, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend your side of the story. Misdemeanors can still be punished with fines and prison or jail time, which can impact your relationships, school or work.

There are several kinds of misdemeanors. The first is known as a petty misdemeanor. Usually, the fine for this charge is no more than $500 and results in less than a half year in jail. If you’re accused of a petty misdemeanor, you may be able to defend yourself and have the charges dropped or the penalties lessened. Some alternatives might be to attend a rehabilitation program or to perform community service.

Gross misdemeanors differ as they are slightly more serious than a petty misdemeanor. Ordinary misdemeanors fall in the middle of these two other classes. A gross misdemeanor may also be a “wobbler,” in some cases, which means that it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the preference of the prosecution and judge. When the prosecution or judge decides on the route to take, all the consequences will change to those required of either a misdemeanor or felony for that type of crime.

If your case in Maryland is dropped or you’re found innocent, a certified finding of factual innocence can be provided to you to give to employers or others who may question your criminal history. Your attorney can request this certificate for you at court when your case is dismissed, so you can have the information you need to show that you have a clear record.

On behalf of The Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC posted in Misdemeanors September 21, 2016