Californians, for the most part, are very open minded about marijuana use. California marijuana laws have been undergoing changes. In recent years, simple possession of marijuana for personal use is no longer charged as a misdemeanor, as it was prior to 2011. If the quantity of marijuana is less than 28.5 grams, about one once, it is punishable by an infraction along with a potential fine of up to $100. An infraction, like a traffic ticket, will not show up on your criminal record and results in no jail time. This is the least serious of marijuana possession charges. Most people caught in possession of marijuana will fall in this category, unless they grow or sell it as well. Similarly, those in possession of marijuana paraphernalia, such as a bong or pipe do not face criminal charges. They will, however, face whatever penalties there are for the possession of any marijuana product in the paraphernalia. Possession of synthetic marijuana derivative products is a misdemeanor charge at this point, however starting 2016 it will be reduced to the level of an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250. Those who were previously charged with a misdemeanor for marijuana possession prior to 2011 will have it expunged from their record two years after the date of conviction. However, there are many other scenarios of possession that will result in more than an infraction. If you are over 18 and are caught with less than one ounce of non-concentrated marijuana but were on school property, during operating hours, you will face a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Those under the age of 18, who are caught in the same scenario, holding less than one ounce of non-concentrated marijuana on school grounds, during operating hours, will face a misdemeanor charge with a fine of up to $250, for a first offense. Second offenses are punishable with a fine of up to $500 and/or up to ten days in a juvenile correctional facility. If caught with more than one ounce of marijuana at any time, you can face misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Those in possession of any amount of concentrated marijuana, for example in an oil or wax form, face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500, or some combination of both. Possession of any amount of marijuana, concentrated marijuana or synthetic marijuana compound with the intent to sell or otherwise distribute is a more serious criminal charge. Possession with intent to sell is a felony charge in any quantity and will result in lengthy jail or prison time, depending on the circumstances. It is important to note that "intent to sell" can sometimes be presumed in the presence of scales, containers or other items indicative of the sale of marijuana. These items can also be used for personal use, however, so it is important to challenge this charge if you are mistakenly accused of possession with intent to sell. Possession of marijuana in your car, while driving, if less than one ounce and in a non-concentrated form, will result in an infraction and a fine of up to $100, like other forms of possession will. However, because driving while impaired laws include instances of drug impairment, you could risk being charged with a DUI if the officer has reason to believe you were under the influence of the drug at the time of driving. So, as you can see, not all marijuana possession charges are the same. They can vary quite a bit actually, as can their punishments. Unfortunately, this means a small difference in the amount held or the form it is in can mean the difference between a slap on the wrists and a criminal record. For this reason, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges of marijuana possession. Possession with intent to sell is a serious charge and one that can be easily mistaken for possession for personal use. As laws change, you will want a skilled defense attorney by your side to make sure you have every possible chance to have your criminal charges dropped, resulting in a minor infraction.
Are you or a loved on in the Tulare County area facing criminal marijuana possession charges? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. Experienced in drug charge defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards the best possible outcome for your possession case. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.