What is the Maximum Penalty for a Maryland Possession of Marijuana Less Than 10 Grams Citation?

Maximum penalty for this offense is 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. That does not mean that is what you are going to receive as a penalty, that is only the maximum! An experienced defense attorney can help you avoid any jail time, probation, and/or potentially keep it off your record.

Did you receive 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. I can explain to you the process and put you in the best position to avoid jail time, minimize costs, and keep this kind of charge off your criminal record if possible.

Do I have to go to Court if I received a Citation for Possession of Marijuana in Maryland?

When police in Maryland encounter a person they suspect is in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana they will almost always issue a citation provided that there is no other crime that has allegedly been committed.  These citations are usually yellow slips of paper with some possibly illegible handwriting on it that should state what the charge is and maximum penalty for the offense.  Sometimes there is a court date noted but most of the time there is no indication from the citation of any time to appear in court.

Do I have to go to court for this citation?
Yes, absolutely, you must appear in court to address this citation. Even though the officer did not arrest you, you are still compelled to appear when summoned to court. This is not a ticket that you can just send in a payment for and not show up for court. Failure to appear will result in a bench warrant.

I haven’t received a court date yet. Are you sure I have to go to court?

Yes, you have to go to court. You will receive a notice in the mail of your court date if you did not receive it along with the citation. It should be sent to you in the mail by the court to the address on the citation. You may also keep an eye on Maryland Judiciary Case Search–once your case is placed in the system you can see the court date on that website.

When will I receive a court date?
Depends on the county. It may take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months before your case is set for court.

Did you receive 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. I can explain to you the process and put you in the best position to avoid jail time, minimize costs, and keep this kind of charge off your criminal record if possible.

What consequences do I face outside of the justice system if I am convicted of a crime?

If you have been charged with a crime, a conviction could impact your life negatively in many ways. A felony conviction is more limiting than a misdemeanor conviction, but any crime on your record can be harmful. Here are a few of the ways that a conviction could haunt you long after you have completed what the court required of you:

  • Employment Opportunities: A job could be harder to come by after a conviction. In Maryland, employers can legally deny you a job if you have been convicted of a felony or suspend you from your job. Pay close attention to the wording of a job application.
  • Education Opportunities: In most cases, you will be asked on college and graduate school applications whether you have a conviction. The Common Application, used by more than 500 schools, includes a question about criminal convictions. You may also be ineligible to receive federal student aid or scholarships if you are convicted.
  • Licenses: In Maryland and many other states, you need a license to do certain things like own a handgun, practice law, or practice medicine. Your application for theses licenses can be negatively influenced by a conviction.
  • Voting, Running for Public Office, and Serving on a Jury: These civic privileges are all impacted by a felony conviction.

Always pay close attention to the wording of a question on an application or questionnaire. In some cases, you are not required to answer yes or provide an explanation if the juvenile adjudication or criminal conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, or otherwise ordered by a court to be kept confidential. See my post on expungements and other case resolutions in Maryland here.

It is best to hire an attorney to help you avoid a conviction. Our office provides advice and representation to help you get the best results. Call attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472.

What is an Expungement vs. Nolle Prosequi vs. Stet?

In Maryland, a criminal case can be closed either through a Nolle Prosequi or a Stet. What are the differences of those two? And what is an expungement? When does that take place?

Expungement
An expungement is the deletion and removal of all court and police records related to a defendant’s charges and case. This means the case is removed from public record. Once expunged, in certain circumstances, the defendant can state that an arrest/citation/charge never even occurred for this case.

Nolle Prosequi

Nolle Prosequi is a Latin term that means “no longer prosecute.” In Maryland, when the State enters a nolle prosequi, it means that the State is electing not to pursue the case and is dropping the charges. A Nolle Prosequi means the case is closed, and potentially can be expunged immediately.

Stet Docket
Stet means the case has been closed statistically as “inactive.” The case may be reopened at a later time if the defendant either doesn’t fulfill what was agreed to do–whether that is complete community service, a drug class, restitution, stay away order, refrain from picking up any new charges, etc.–or if the defendant wishes to reopen the case. A case that has been Stet is not a conviction, but cannot be expunged until after three years have passed. If the defendant wants an expungement of a Stet, he or she either needs to have the Stet case converted to a Nolle Prosequi or simply wait until enough time has passed before being eligible.

It is important to note that Nolle Prosequi and Stet cases are NOT convictions! However, the court and arrest records still exist for those cases unless and until they are expunged. Thus, if someone has a Nolle Prosequi or a Stet that person would still need to answer in the affirmative that he or she had been previously arrested/cited/charged in that case, if it were to come up in an application, background check, interview, etc. For more help or questions, contact our office at 301-875-3472.

Potential Pitfalls in an Application for Maryland Handgun Permit

“Providing False or Misleading Information May Lead To Your Arrest”

“FALSE INFORMATION WILL BE SUFFICIENT GROUNDS FOR DENIAL OF THE APPLICATION AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION WHICH CARRIES A PENALTY OF IMPRISONMENT NOT TO EXCEED 1 YEAR AND/OR $1000 FINE.”

“Warning: Any person who willingly makes false statements on this application is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

These are some of the warnings that appear on Maryland’s handgun carry permit application. These applications are handled by the Maryland State Police (MSP), who take these matter very seriously. Applicants should be extremely careful when filling them out, and should absolutely seek legal advice if there is any doubt about how to answer one of the questions. The MSP complete a thorough background check and investigation of each applicant as part of the process. If the check and investigation turn up information that contradicts the answers on the application, the applicant frequently will find themselves in really hot water–facing such criminal charges as False Information or Misstatement in Application, False Statement to Officer, or even Perjury.

The most common questions that give applicants problems are the ones which ask whether the applicant has ever been 1) ARRESTED for a crime, 2) CHARGED with a crime, and 3) CONVICTED of a crime. These are three separate and distinguishable events in the criminal justice system. However, the applicant may not fully appreciate the difference.

What if someone was charged by citation, not arrested? What if the charges were dropped, entered Nolle Prosequi, or placed on the Stet docket? What about if the case has already been expunged?

These are complicated questions and each applicant’s situation is different. If you are worried that you do not know the right answer it is better to consult with an attorney than to guess or speculate. Our office provides advice and assistance with applications such as these, and will be glad to speak with you regarding your specific situation. Call attorney Chris Peretti at 301-875-3472.

Six Defenses for a Wear/Carry Handgun Charge in Maryland

In Maryland, to wear, carry or transport a handgun is a criminal misdemeanor under Criminal Law Section 4-203. A conviction can result in ineligibility to own a gun, a criminal record, or even jail time. There are numerous exceptions to the rule, and many defenses that can be made.

Here are six of the most common defenses to the handgun statute:

1. Illegal Search and/or Seizure by the Police
An experienced defense attorney will always check the legality of any stop or seizure by the police. If the handgun is on a person, in a car, house, or anywhere else where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, then there could also be an unconstitutional search. The police need reasonable suspicion to conduct any limited stop/frisk and must have probable cause for any full-blown search or arrest. If the gun was in a car, what was the basis of the traffic stop? Was the person detained longer than necessary? Why did the police conduct a search? Did the police have a warrant to search the home, or are they attempting to justify it by another reason? The possibilities for a defense here are numerous.

2. Transportation Exception to the Statute

Was the handgun being transported back from the shooting range in a lawful manner? Was the person in route to a business from home? There could be an exception allowing the person to lawfully transport the handgun in these situations. Of course, in these cases the handgun still must be unloaded and placed in a case or holster. Also, providing documentation is crucial for a defense such as this–receipts from the shooting range or repair shop, lease showing residence, etc.

3. Person on Personal Property with Handgun
Was the person on his or her property (including the front porch/steps of a house, for example)? At a house that he rents? At a business that she owns and operates? If so, the person can lawfully carry the handgun regardless of whether it is loaded, in a case, or in a holster.

4. Lawful Handgun Permit

The person may be law enforcement, military, or have a carry permit for another reason. In this case, the person can lawfully carry the handgun according to the what is permissible under the permit.

5. Not an Actual Handgun
If the gun is a rifle, shotgun, or antique firearm, then it would not be a handgun as defined in this criminal statute.

6. Handgun is Not Operable
If the gun incapable of being test fired, then it would also not fall under this statute as a handgun. The handgun must qualify as a firearm capable of properly operating. Part of the evidence required by the prosecution is to show that it is a properly operating firearm, which is usually done so by having a police officer test fire and document the results.

There are other defenses, of course, but these are probably the most common and likely to come up. To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your wear, carry, or transport a handgun case, contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti any time at 301-875-3472. As always, consultations are complimentary.

Wear, Carry or Transport a Handgun in Maryland

Wear, Carry or Transport a Handgun in Maryland
In Maryland someone can own a handgun and have it in their home, but that’s about all (with limited exceptions). It is generally a crime to “wear, carry, or transport” a handgun outside of the home or in a vehicle. Some obvious exceptions to this is if the gun owner has a Maryland handgun carry permit or is a law enforcement officer. There are a number of other exceptions in the statute outlined below.

Penalty for Wear, Carry or Transport a Handgun
This crime is a misdemeanor and carries a minimum of thirty days and a maximum of three years incarceration. Even though it carries a minimum sentence of jail time that amount of time can be suspended by the Court. For second and subsequent offenses it carries a minimum of three years and a maximum of ten years.

Common Civilian Exceptions to the Rule
For someone who is not law enforcement/military and does not have a carry permit, here are the exceptions for transporting a handgun that exist in the Maryland statute:
1. To/from a legal purchase or sale.
2. To/from a gun repair shop.
3. To/from actual residences of the person.
4. To/from the person’s home and business, if the person substantially owns and operates the business.
5. To/from a target shoot or target practice.
6. To/from a firearms safety class.
7. To/from a gun exhibition by a gun collector.
**For exceptions 1-7, the handgun must be unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or holster.
8. On property owned or leased by the person, or where the person lives.
9. On a business establishment owned or leased by the person.
10. By an employee authorized by the business owner, on the confines of the business property, and within the course of employment.

If you or a loved one are facing a handgun crime and want further information contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti today at 301-875-3472. Consultations at our office are always complimentary. We can tell you whether there may be an exception to your handgun case and determine if there are any other potential defenses to the charges. As always, we will protect your interests and fight for the best result in your case.

Constitutionality of a Traffic Stop for Center Brake Light Out in Maryland

Center brake light
A common reason a vehicle is pulled over and stopped by police is for having the center brake light out. Prior to the 1980’s cars did not have a center brake light, only the two rear brake lights on the left and right side. Today all vehicles are manufactured to have a third brake light in the center, usually mounted at the top or bottom of the rear window.

Maryland Transportation Article law on brake lights says two is ok
According to TA section 22-206(a)(1): Every motor vehicle registered in this State and sold as a new vehicle after June 1, 1967, shall be equipped with at least two stop lamps. There is no mention in the section on brake lights that mentions a requirement for a third operable brake light.

Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) says a vehicle must have three brake lights
However, COMAR clearly states that in order for a vehicle manufactured after 1985 to pass inspection there must be a center operable brake light in addition to the side brake lights.

What’s the right answer? Is a traffic stop unconstitutional if you have the center brake light out?
According to Maryland law, if the statute (Transportation Article) is in conflict with the regulations (COMAR), then the statute is controlling. So an argument can be made that the stop is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment since the statute does not specifically allow an officer to stop for this, and the statute should trump the regulation. However, some judges will agree with the prosecutor that the officer can issue a repair order for a center brake light out and thus make a valid traffic stop for the purpose of writing the repair order. This is one of those issues where the law is not clear-cut. Having an experienced traffic and criminal defense attorney to argue that the stop was not valid can be invaluable for this type of case, since it could go either way.

For a free consultation regarding a traffic or criminal case based on a center brake light stop, or any other reason, contact the Law Offices of Christopher Peretti at 301-875-3472.