First Time Marijuana Possession – Are Drug Diversion Programs Available in Maryland?

Marijuana Possession in Maryland

Despite recent pushes across the country to legalize medicinal marijuana and focus law enforcement on other drugs such as cocaine and crack, the fact remains that possession of marijuana in Maryland is still a crime. Possession of Marijuana is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of 1 year incarceration and/or a $1,000 fine.

First Time Offenders – Diversion

If this is the first time you have been charged with marijuana possession, you may be eligible for a drug diversion program. As an alternative to proceeding to trial and having a judge or jury render a decision on a case or entering a guilty plea, the prosecution may elect to “divert” the case to something other than a trial or a plea. There is no uniform diversion program in Maryland–the programs vary from county to county. Most counties, including both Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, have a form of drug diversion for first time marijuana possession or paraphernalia cases. These programs have different requirements and qualifications for eligibility–for instance, one may require urine testing to make sure the defendant is clean, or it may consist of drug education classes, narcotics anonymous classes, or community service. However, they just about all require that the defendant not have a prior criminal history, that the case is for simple possession, and that it is for marijuana and not another drug.

The obvious benefit to a drug diversion program is that it helps keep the defendant’s record clean and clear of a conviction. A conviction for a drug offense can cause problems when it comes to employment or education. The legal process for diversion varies from county to county but generally the end result is the State agrees to dismiss (or drop) the drug charges against the defendant in exchange for the defendant’s successful completion of all the conditions of the diversion program. It can be a win-win situation for the defendant, who gets to keep a clean record and avoid a guilty finding.

Do I Still Need an Attorney if This is My First Time with a Marijuana Charge?

Absolutely! When facing the possibility of jail time one should always seek the counsel of an attorney.

An experienced defense attorney can assess the entire case. There may be a valid legal or factual defense to your case that a drug defense attorney can spot. For instance, there may be a defense that the drug evidence should be suppressed because of an illegal search, seizure or pat down. The prosecution may not be able to prove that the defendant actually “possessed” the drugs. An attorney can also spot other holes in the prosecution case, such as if there is a problem with the chain-of-custody of the drugs or the chemical drug report, and may be able to push a prosecutor to dismiss a weak case.

And when all else fails, an attorney may be able to successfully negotiate a drug diversion program with the prosecutor, keeping your record clean and keeping you out of jail. If you or someone you know is facing a drug possession charge–whether its a first time marijuana charge or any other drug charge–contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti today for a free consultation at 301-875-3472. I can help you move on with your case and move on with your life.

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