It can be difficult to keep up as medical and recreational marijuana laws rapidly change across the country. Medical provisions have made it easier for patients to access marijuana, and some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana altogether. These eased restrictions have led some defendants to believe that marijuana possession charges are not that serious. The reality is that possession charges can have lost-lasting consequences on a defendant’s life for years to come.
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes create sentencing guidelines based on the amount of prohibited substance the defendant is found to be in possession of. Section 780-113(g) of Title 35 requires a sentence as many as 30 days in jail, a fine of $500, or both when the defendant is in possession of as much as 30 grams of marijuana or as much as eight grams of hashish. A first offense of possession also results in six-month suspension of the defendant’s driving privileges. Second offenses result in one-year suspensions, and third (and subsequent) offenses result in two-year suspensions.
While most defendants understand that they face a combination of fines, jail time, and community service, they’re often painfully unaware of the collateral consequences that a marijuana charge and conviction can bring. First, the court process is not a simple matter of filling out forms. It requires multiple court appearances that often result in missing work. Court-ordered community service and substance abuse classes take more time and can further aggravate the defendant’s employer.
Furthermore, the sentenced fine is not the only court cost a defendant must pay. Court fees, administrative fees, attorney’s fees, and other fees add up quickly. Finally, defendants do not always realize the impact of having a criminal record, which can preclude employment and educational opportunities.
A defendant can also lose a professional license, and with it, employment, upon conviction. Many licensing entities in Pennsylvania require reporting of criminal convictions, and some even require reporting of arrests and other pre-conviction proceedings. A first-time offense can cause a defendant to spend many hours attempting to secure a professional license. This, too, can incur more attorney fees.
Possession and other marijuana offenses—such as driving under the influence—can also cause defendants to lose driving privileges. Defendants must obtain special restricted licenses for the period during which they must install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. When this period is successfully completed, defendants must obtain the appropriate court orders and return to the DMV to have their regular driver’s licenses reinstated. This process is neither fun nor fast.
Seek legal advice as soon as possible after any drug-related arrest. Experienced Pennsylvania marijuana defense attorney Michael J. Skinner will ably guide you throughout the criminal process. Call (610) 436-1410 today to schedule your free consultation with Skinner Law Firm so we can begin protecting your rights.