Interviewer: Can you illustrate some differences in between how a marijuana case would be resolved versus something like along the lines of cocaine and methamphetamine?
Marijuana Charges Carry Less Serious Penalties
Brian Geno: Marijuana is typically considered a less serious drug in my opinion than the more serious ones and you can pick that up because the sentencing on cocaine or other Schedule II drugs is much more serious than on a marijuana charge.
For example, straight possession of marijuana has a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail for the first offense, $500 fine. That’s the worst you can get for the first offense of possession of marijuana. That is less than half an ounce.
A Cocaine Possession Is Likely to be a Felony Charge
On the other hand, if you get straight possession of cocaine and you get convicted of that, it’s a felony, not a misdemeanor. You can get up to two years in prison and you can get fined up to $2500. That’s four straight possession and when you go into probation, they do a lot more treatment for cocaine or other Schedule II drugs than they would with possession of marijuana.
If what you have is possession of more than a half an ounce of marijuana, that would make it a felony and you could get up to 10 years in prison for that, but if you are possessing a large amount of cocaine, the amount of your penalty would also go up. It’s still quite a bit more severe than if it’s marijuana.
Finally, possession with intent to distribute marijuana for more than a half an ounce, up to five pounds, you can get up to 10 years in prison, but if you have possession with intent to distribute cocaine, you can get five to 40 years in prison, fines up to $500,000 and for the second offense, up to life in prison. There is a huge difference for those two.
A Drug Charge Involving a Drug That Has No Medical Benefit Can Carry Severe Penalties
I’m not advocating using marijuana as oppose to other drugs at all, but certainly the penalties for marijuana are much less than the Schedule I or the Schedule II drugs. Those are the ones that are considered really dangerous and that is because there is no medical benefit to using those other drugs.
Schedule III drugs are Schedule II misdemeanors and you still face more penalties than a first offense of possession of marijuana. Almost every other drug is penalized more severely than marijuana.
Interviewer: Is there anything else in regards to drug charges, you may want to touch on?
Advice from an Attorney about What to Do If You Are Stopped by the Police for Drug Possession
Brian Geno: If a person stopped, they might not know right off the bat that they have been stopped for a drug charge. These are general tips that a person should use if they’re stopped for drugs or anything else.
If You Are Not Arrested, You Do Not Have to Consent to a Search
This is what I would say. If a person has not been arrested or taken into custody, then that person does not have to submit to a search. That person does not have to speak to the cops or to the fire department or to child services or whoever the government office is about the crime and they have no obligation to say anything at all. They should not resist the arrest. They should go ahead.
Always Remain Polite When Interacting with Police
If the police think they have the right to arrest you, they will arrest you and they could hurt you in the process. You should be polite and cooperative you’re about to be arrested.
Respectfully decline to answer any questions, don’t volunteer any information about the incident that they are investigating and insist that an attorney be present before answering any questions. As an attorney, I would say if I were there, I would not answer any questions. That goes back to rule number one.
Don’t Discuss the Case with Anyone Except Your Attorney
Then don’t discuss the case with anyone else other than the attorney because what you say can be used against you. This is important advice to follow. In drug cases, it’s more important than ever that you keep your rights because the government’s case against you is stacked in their favor. If you exercise the rights that you do have you can benefit the outcome of your case.