Marijuana laws in California have gone through a lot of changes in the last several years. As of 2011, marijuana possession of less than one ounce, about 28.5 grams, for personal use in California has been reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Infractions aren't considered criminal charges and usually come with just a fine, whereas misdemeanors come with jail time, fines and a probation period. Prior to 2011, possession of the same amount for personal use resulted in a misdemeanor charge on your record, however these charges are dropped from your record after two years from the date of conviction, or date of arrest, if no conviction was found. Things are a little different for minors. Minors with misdemeanor marijuana possession charges will have their charges dropped from their record when they turn 18. For other marijuana related charges that result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, there are options for having your charge dismissed and expunged from your record. If, upon fulfilling all the requirements of your probation, if you were given it, you can petition to have your charge dismissed. If you have not yet finished your probation, you can petition to have your probation period terminated early in addition to the petition for dismissal. Expungement of your record means your case was opened, your plea or the verdict that convicted you is set aside and your case is closed again. It will still show up on your record, however not as a standing conviction. Certain possession offenses can be avoided entirely by having a deferred judgment. If this is granted, your charge is deferred until you complete a diversion program and upon successful completion of this program, your charge will be dismissed. This is only available for first and second time personal possession or cultivation for personal use offenders. Felony marijuana possession charges, such as possession with intent to sell, will not be dropped after two years. In fact, they will remain on your record permanently under most circumstances. California courts prosecute felony drug offenders aggressively and do not let them off after two years as they do with more minor offenders. However, these charges may be eventually dismissed from your record through a process called expungement. If you have fulfilled the terms of your probation, you can petition for the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor and then petition for the dismissal through the courts. This is not a guarantee, however, and not all petitions for dismissal are granted. Furthermore, if you were given a prison sentence as a result of your felony, you will not be eligible for a dismissal and only in rare instances; a certificate of rehabilitation and possibly a pardon may be issued. These options are up to the court's discretion and may require the help of an attorney to get you through the process of petitioning. It is important to note here that some employers, often government based, will require you disclose any dismissed charges anyways however non-governmental California employers are not allowed to use an arrest that did not end in a conviction against you nor can they ask about it. So, if you have your possession charge dismissed, for employment purposes, no one needs to know. As you can see, marijuana possession charges will remain on your criminal record for varying lengths, depending on the circumstances of your conviction and your age at the time. Having charges dismissed from your record can be a complicated process and is never a guarantee. The courts will only dismiss a charge if it is in the interest of justice. If you violated any terms of your probation, have gotten into further legal trouble since your possession charge or otherwise give the courts the impression a dismissal would not be in the interest of justice, you may not be granted a dismissal. Keep in mind that these are the options available to you for California marijuana possession charges. Possession charges from other states may stay on your record for longer and may have a different procedure for dismissing them.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing charges of marijuana possession? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we know drug laws and can provide tenacious representation throughout your case. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has 10 years experience as a defense attorney and has never worked as a prosecutor. Mr. Martens knows defense and will not be afraid to fight for your rights aggressively. Practicing exclusively criminal defense in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties, Mr. Martens can strategize a solid defense for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.