What is a Citation for Marijuana Possession in Maryland?

I have noticed recently that the majority of persons charged solely with possession of small amounts of marijuana in Prince George’s County are being charged through citation, not arrest. This is not unique to Prince George’s County, and is happening more and more frequently throughout the urban Maryland counties in the D.C./Baltimore area.

In 2012, Maryland reduced the maximum penalty for Possession of Less than 10 Grams of Marijuana to 90 days and/or $500 fine. That law went into effect back in October 2012. Maryland also changed the law so that these minor possession crimes could be charged by a citation instead of an arrest. That law went into effect January 2013, and police departments across the state have now been accelerating their use of this law. Police departments have been issuing citations for criminal offenses such as minor shoplifting (under $100 in value) and criminal trespass at their discretion for a number of years, and this change simply adds minor marijuana possession to that list of crimes chargeable by citation.

There are a few reasons behind this change. One, it provides relief for the commissioners office and allows them to focus on setting bails for more serious offenses instead of being bogged down with harmless marijuana users. Two, it keeps police officers on the streets as they are not required to immediately arrest, book, and process someone for this relatively minor crime. Last, and most important, it saves the person being charged a lot of time, hassle, and money (potentially) by allowing them to leave the scene of the incident in a similar fashion as one would when they receive standard traffic citations. Instead of being arrested, brought before the commissioner–which I’ve seen routinely take 12-24 hours, even if the person is going to be released on their own recognizance!–and potentially having to post bail, that person can go on their way and come to court later to address the criminal charge. This change seems to be a minor win for the system on all sides.

So then, what exactly is a Citation for Marijuana Possession?
Plain and simply, the citation notifies the accused that they are charged with the crime of Possession of Marijuana. The citation should cite the section of law that was violated and the maximum penalty for the offense.

It is important to note that, even though a person is issued a citation for possession of marijuana and not arrested, that person is still charged with a criminal offense as if they were arrested! The citation will require the accused to appear in court, carries the same maximum penalty as if the accused was arrested, and the accused carries the same Constitutional Rights and potential defenses as an accused person who was arrested for the same crime. The only difference between someone accused with possession of marijuana who was issued a citation and someone who was arrested is what happens between the time of contact with the police and the time that person must appear in court. Once the person gets to court, everything else is pretty much the same.

Do I really need an attorney for a Marijuana Possession Citation?
Absolutely! Think of this exactly the way you would if you had been arrested, booked, and charged with a crime the conventional way. While you were spared the hassle, embarrassment, and time of going through that whole process that does not mean that this citation is just going to go away on its own or that you won’t have to come to court to defend against the case. You will. Wouldn’t you want to have a lawyer who is fighting for your best interests, looking through all possible defenses, and prepared to go to trial if need be?

Aside from trial, an attorney can be extremely valuable in helping keep this off your record through negotiating a potential drug diversion program or community service in exchange for the charges being dropped on your behalf. Even if this is not your first offense, a lawyer can advise you on other potential ways to keep this from being a conviction on your record, even if you already have a Probation Before Judgment on a previous case!

For more information: What happens after I receive the criminal citation?

If you or someone you know received a citation for possession of marijuana, feel free to contact Attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472 for a free consultation. It is important to speak with a lawyer who handles these types of offenses, knows how this system works, and can fight to get you the best result out of your case.

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