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What Are The Laws And Penalties For Drug Offenses?

The Law Office Phillips & Allen PA Nov. 20, 2022

Standard Penalties Involved In Drug Charges

The maximum penalties in Maryland are set up to be very harsh.

In Maryland, judges have absolute discretion.

Anybody that looks at a marijuana charge, which is one year and a $1,000 penalty, is going to be something that a judge will have somebody in front of them. If they’re guilty, they will take into account the person’s criminal record, their background, whether or not they’re working, and whether or not they’re productive in society, and that will end up giving a judge enough information to make a decision as to anywhere between probation to the full amount of the penalty.

You see a lot of variations in there. Generally, the statutes depend on the severity of them, you have up to 20 years in jail for certain distribution offenses. Generally, four years in jail for possession to distribute, and that will vary a little bit between a marijuana charge and other ones. So while somebody will get a criminal citation saying they might get 20 years in jail, for the most part, they’re not going to be looking at 20 years in jail unless they have a history of doing the same type of thing.

Laws In Maryland Regarding Medical Marijuana

Maryland does have a medical marijuana statute. It has a whole statutory framework set in which people who have a need for medical marijuana can get a prescription from a doctor. If they get a prescription from the doctor, they can purchase it at state-licensed facilities.

It’s been about two years since Maryland passed the statute that not only permits medical marijuana, but it permits the manufacturing and sale process.

For a few years, Maryland had allowed medical marijuana but really did not have any way to make that available. Typically, if you have medical marijuana and you have the right to use it you can use it, but you still can be fined if you use it in public or if you are using it while driving.

That’s something that you can end up with driving under the influence of illegal substances, and there have been a few cases in Maryland where people who have medical marijuana authority have been charged with that. In the same way, people who have prescription drug authority are taking too many prescription drugs and getting DUIs or some type of driving offenses.

What Is Drug Trafficking? Is That Addressed Under Maryland law?

Drug trafficking carries a little bit stronger penalties. Generally, drug trafficking is distribution, and people who have larger records of distribution are going to end up getting more of a sentence with that. In drug trafficking, if you have very large amounts, you can be subjected to even harsher penalties.

Laws Against Drug Paraphernalia In Maryland

Maryland still has their drug paraphernalia law and it is still considered a misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, it also carries a fine of $500 but it does not have any jail time associated with it. This is an anomaly within Maryland law because now that the marijuana has been made into a civil citation, essentially people who have that civil citation and have paraphernalia with them are subject to a criminal citation.

For instance, if a police officer spots a small bag of marijuana sitting on your dash, he can confiscate that small bag of marijuana. If it’s less than 10 grams he can give you a civil citation, and he has to let you go.

But if you have a pipe sitting next to that or a piece of paraphernalia sitting next to that bag, the police officer could potentially charge you with the paraphernalia charge which could force you to show up to court and be sentenced to up to $500 and he could search your car based on the fact that you had illegal paraphernalia in the car. It’s a very strange situation.

Maybe in the future, the Maryland legislature will address this anomaly because somebody who is a legal marijuana user with a medical card, they are technically violating the law when they have any implement that they can use to smoke it.

Law Regarding Forging A Drug Prescription In Maryland And The Severity Of Penalties

This is another crime that you see happen very often. Prescription drugs have really caused a problem in the last 10 or 12 years as other drugs may be harder to find. Prescription drugs have been very prevalent, and the fact of forging prescriptions happens more and more these days, and when somebody does that they really put themselves in a difficult case.

Those are very hard cases to win because most of the time that person is going to be caught on camera going into the drug store and purchasing something. The drug stores or pharmacies have a list of people that they look at very closely, and everything is now put on computers and everything can be tracked very easily.

So when someone is picking up prescriptions at multiple pharmacies, those get red-flagged, and when they get red-flagged, these people are on video most of the time picking them up. They have a very hard time proving that they did not do that.

It’s one of the tougher crimes that you can defend and with the federal control of narcotics, that’s something that can get somebody with federal charges a lot easier than most of the other drug crimes seen in Maryland.

Can The Passenger In The Vehicle Also Receive A Drug Related Charge?

Any time drugs are found in a vehicle, it’s very possible that the police arrest multiple occupants of that vehicle. The driver of the vehicle is generally presumed to know what is in the vehicle, but if an officer can reasonably articulate a reason that a passenger may be in possession of those drugs, those are things that can be used to charge somebody.

A lot of times when an officer pulls somebody over and they find drugs in some compartment inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle, they could basically go in. For instance, in the center glove box, that’s easily accessible by the passenger and also the driver or the glove box. A passenger could easily be charged for that.

Police are more likely to charge multiple people if one person does not take responsibility and it’s usually called falling on the grenade. If the driver takes responsibility for everything in the car, more likely than not, the police aren’t going to arrest the other passengers in the car, or unless there is something that directly ties somebody to the drugs.

But it really depends on where it’s found in the car. If it’s found under your seat, you can generally expect to be charged. If it’s found in a backpack or a purse, you can generally expect to be charged unless nobody has taken responsibility for the backpack and that piece, in which case police have the authority to go ahead and charge everybody and let the judges sort it out.

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