On June 4, members of the Senate Judicial Committee in Louisiana voted to reduce penalties for repeat marijuana offenders as part of House Bill 103. What does this mean to the average person accused of marijuana possession?
The House Bill 103 reduces marijuana penalties and jail time for those that are convicted for second or multiple offenses of possessing marijuana. In addition, the House Bill 103 also removes “cannabis possession” as an offense qualifying mandatory minimum sentences under the state’s habitual offender law, the “three strikes” law. As a Criminal Lawyer in New Orleans, I have faith that marijuana users will find this new law favorable.
This is the first time that anyone can remember marijuana charges reducing in the State of Louisiana. (On June 6, House Bill 103 died with the Senate because they were unable to garner the 26 twice needed votes to push it through, falling by only 2 votes)***
Marijuana Offenders and Accused
By removing automatic sentencing and lowering the maximum penalties, those who are accused of marijuana possession will benefit more from hiring a criminal lawyer to help them through their case to ensure that you are not convicted, fined or sentenced unconstitutionally. House Bill 103 specifically lowers the maximum penalty for a second marijuana possession conviction from five years of jail time to no more than two years, meaning it could be less than two or none at all. For subsequent marijuana possession convictions, you are looking at no more than 5-8 years of jail, rather than up to 20 years of imprisonment. This is quite a drastic change and may show the change of landscape in the opinions on marijuana, compared to other criminal charges. The idea behind this is that it will save Louisiana and New Orleans taxpayers roughly $2.2 million dollars in incarceration costs.
Understanding the Difference Between a Criminal Marijuana Charge & a Civil Marijuana Fine or Citation
Understanding the difference between a criminal marijuana charge and a civil marijuana fine or citation is like understanding the difference between a moving violation offense and a DUI. If you are arrested with a small amount of marijuana on your person, you are most likely going to be accused of a simple civil marijuana possession. This means that there is no evidence that you had the intent to distribute or sell the marijuana and probably that it was for ‘personal use’. On the other hand, if there is evidence that the marijuana possession is connected to dealing drugs (visible drug paraphernalia like digital scales, plastic baggies, large sums of cash or weapons) there is a higher chance that the person will be charge with criminal marijuana offenses. The need for a Louisiana drug crimes defense lawyer is important because a case like this will have many different parts to analyze including whether the arresting officers were searching constitutionally or not. In New Orleans specifically, passed in 2010, a provision passed allowing arresting officers the option to issue a fine rather than make an arrest for simple marijuana possession.
Do You Know Someone Currently in Jail for Marijuana Possession?
If you know someone in a Louisiana jail that is currently serving time for multiple marijuana possessions, this is the time to contact a criminal lawyer to find out whether this person is eligible for “reconsideration” from a judge. I would be happy to speak to you or your family member or friend that is behind bars for a marijuana possession to see if he or she would be eligible to be reconsidered for release. Additionally, if you are facing a marijuana possession charge, whether it is your first offense or you have been convicted for marijuana possession in the past, please feel free to call me at (504) 264-9492 or (866) 459-4478 or e-mail me for a free consultation. I will be happy to discuss the new marijuana laws in Louisiana or help you obtain the best possible outcome for your marijuana charge.
***Update: Louisiana Marijuana Bills Snuffed Out on Senate Floor (6/6/2013)