small amount of mariHuana
Thank you for visiting the Lampman Law website. Lampman Law is located on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and we practice throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania. From the time Lampman Law opened we have focused on criminal defense, have been in Pennsylvania criminal courts daily, and have represented good people that have been charged with small amount of marihuana and trusted us to defend them.
We understand that even though misdemeanor drug offenses do not have the gravity and/or severe penalties associated with felony drug crimes—any drug charge (even possession of small amount of marihuana) can have a devastating long-term impact on an individual’s criminal record, employment opportunities, and reputation.
More Importantly, we understand how to defend small amount of marihuana cases—we prepare to attack and to win. Lampman Law is always ready and willing to fight and will perform a full investigation of all cases we handle before offering our advice concerning a case’s resolution. In short, we insist on reviewing all the evidence before concluding on the strength or weakness of a case. It is equally important, however, that we always offer direct and honest advice to our clients. If, after reviewing all the evidence, we determine that a case is unlikely to succeed we timely advise our clients of our opinion and fully explain our reasoning in detail. Often, we resolve these cases without jailtime, probation supervision, or license suspension.
WHY HIRE LAMPMAN LAW?
Direct & Honest Advice
Two Experienced, Prepared & Skilled Defenders
Responsive & Aimed on Client Satisfaction
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Payment Plans Available
small amount of mariHuana - 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(31)
(THAT'S RIGHT. PA HATES this drug SO MUCH THEY SPELL IT WITH AN "H", NOT A "J")
Possessing Marihuana is Illegal in Pennsylvania
While many states have legalized the recreational possession of marihuana, and Pennsylvania has approved medical marihuana, it is still illegal to possess marihuana in Pennsylvania without an official license. Regardless that it is 2017, and of what might happen, possessing weed is a crime.
Summary of Notice and Process
Individuals possessing a Small Amount of Marihuana are not typically taken into police custody or otherwise held by the police. Pursuant to the rules of criminal procedure suspects are released and are notified of the charges via mail. The accused is given a court date and a copy of the criminal complaint that states the officer’s basis for filing the charges. A fingerprint order is usually issued requiring the accused to appear for processing (fingerprinting and photographing). Upon being processed the accused person is released.
Offense Defined & Maximum Penalties
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Law, possessing up to 30 grams of marihuana or 8 grams of hashish is considered a small amount of Marihuana. Provided this limited amount of the drug is possessed for personal use, or for distribution but not for sale, it is treated as an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days incarceration or probation and a $500.00 maximum fine.
Criminal Consequences of a Small Amount Conviction
A conviction to this offense is typically penalized with a fine and court costs. A court can jail an offender for 30 days; however, that is not typical unless the offender has an elevated prior record score. A court can also sentence the offender to 30 days of probation with random drug testing. Of course, even if a low fine is issued, the court costs will be expensive (approximately $500.00 to 1,000.00 ish).
Collateral Consequences of a Small Amount Conviction
6 Month Driver’s License Suspension
A conviction to Possessing a Small Amount of Marihuana carries an automatic six (6) month driver’s license suspension that PennDOT will impose. Here it is important to note that even if the court or counsel does not advise an offender to this suspension PennDOT will enforce it.
Criminal Record of Drug Offense
A conviction to this offense will remain on an offender’s record for at least 10 years after the penalty (fines are paid, and supervision is completed). If the offender is free of prosecutions following the final disposition of the case, they can seek a limited access order to remove the offense from their criminal history.
Educational / Professional / Employment Consequences
Any drug conviction may preclude participation in certain educational programs. Likewise, even a drug arrest will likely result in some action from a professional license board. Further, it may be more difficult for an offender to obtain employment with this conviction on their record, and an employer may terminate someone convicted of the offense.
Companion Offense – Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Small Amount of Marihuana is rarely charged alone. The offense is almost always charged with its ugly twin, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Drug Paraphernalia is anything used to produce, pack, store, conceal, or use an illegal narcotic. It is the pipe, rolling papers, roach clip, or Ziploc sandwich bag the weed is in.
This is problematic because even though Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is also an ungraded misdemeanor, it has a 1-year maximum jail term and a $2,500.00 fine. Therefore, the short 30-day maximum for a Small Amount offense gets swallowed up by the long 1-year maximum penalty of Drug Paraphernalia. Obviously, it is also troubling that the law permits a greater punishment for possessing a plastic bag that holds the weed than the penalty for possessing the weed. Since we elect the wizards that write these laws it is clear that we have ourselves to blame.
In sum, the rules are written this way so that courts that want to severely punish or prolong supervision of people for possessing a little bit of weed (in a plastic bag) can do so. In general, most courts in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania want to at least fine and supervise people for possessing a little bit of weed (in a plastic bag). By prolonging supervision, the Commonwealth (the government) can collect more fees and costs from marihuana users and do more random drug testing to see if the offender can stay clean.
Interestingly, despite its higher available penalties, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, is regularly the preferable offense for conviction because it does not carry a driver’s license suspension.
What Options Are Available?
Those accused of Possessing a Small Amount of Marihuana are entitled to a trial. At trial the Commonwealth bears the burden of proof. The Commonwealth must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had: (1) actual or constructive possession; and, (2) of marihuana. The Commonwealth does not need scientific testing or a lab report to prove the substance is marihuana. They can prove the element via testimony from the police or another witness.
Due to the 30-day maximum penalty, the charge of Small Amount of Marihuana does not entitle an accused to a jury trial. Thus, a trial on this charge is a bench trial meaning a judge will sit as the sole finder of all facts and law. However, when Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is also charged, the accused is entitled to a jury trial.
Regardless, trial is not often pursued by the accused in these cases because of the: time commitment required (multiple court appearances); financial expense in lawyer fees; general stress of having a pending case; they just want the case quickly resolved; and/or, they decided a different resolution was a better option.
The barriers to trial in these cases are unfortunate. In short, some of these cases have excellent constitutional arguments (suppression bases on illegal stop, search, seizure) and other viable defenses.
Many people accused of this offense want to resolve the case as soon as possible. This can often be accomplished at the preliminary hearing, which is typically the first court appearance for these offenses. All magistrate courts have the jurisdiction (legal authority) to accept a guilty plea to Small Amount of Marihuana and/or Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. In some counties, however, the higher court prohibits the magistrate court from accepting guilty pleas to misdemeanor offenses. In counties with such a policy, the case will go to the Court of Common Pleas for further prosecution (additional court appearances) unless the charge can be reduced to a summary offense or dismissed following a preliminary hearing.
When entering any guilty plea, it is essential that the accused is first fully advised of all their options and of all the consequences to entering the plea. When clients desire this resolution, Lampman Law attempts to first reduce the charges. Depending on the facts of the case, the accused prior record score, and specific goals, there are strategic advantages concerning where, when, and, of course, what to plead guilty to.
If an accused is eligible for a diversion program such as PWOV (Section 17) or the ARD program, the option must be fully explained and discussed. In fact, cases that are not factually suitable for suppression challenges or trial may be best resolved with PWOV or ARD. Moreover, these programs are often desired because they offer more control over the result and, if successfully completed, dismissal of the charges with the option for expungement. While these programs require a term of probation and may be more expensive than a plea at the magistrate court, they should be considered by anyone with a clean record that is determined to move past the case without a conviction.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love has been charged with possessing a small amount of marihuana in Pennsylvania call Lampman Law today at 570-371-3737 for free consultation.