Drug use is rampant across the United States and Maryland is no exception to the rule. In fact, Maryland is one of the top ten states in the country when it comes to dependence on drugs.
A charge of drug possession is not a situation to be taken lightly--aside from possible jail sentences and astronomical fines, convictions of drug offenses can plague your quality of life in the long term. For instance, a conviction of drug possession appearing on your criminal record can impact your ability to obtain a job or find a place to live.
If you have been charged with drug possession in the state of Maryland, you want aggressive, thorough legal representation. James Peters is committed to providing competent representation during the entirety of your case and can answer any questions that you may have about how your case will proceed.
Drug Possession in Maryland
Drug possession in Maryland is governed by Code Maryland Section 5-601 and prohibits an individual from being in possession of drugs or other illegal or dangerous substances. Maryland classifies dozens of substances as dangerous, from obvious illegal substances like heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine, to less obvious substances including hallucinogens and illegally obtained pain medication.
As of 2014, possession of marijuana does not necessarily equate to a criminal offense in Maryland. Possession of under 10 grams of marijuana is now only a civil offense in the state and does not result in imprisonment. Rather, civil offenses for marijuana possession result in monetary fines that vary depending on whether the offense is the individual's first, second, third or subsequent offense. Possession of 10 grams or more of marijuana remains a criminal offense in Maryland and can result in incarceration along with monetary fines.
Elements of § 5-601
Maryland's drug possession statute states that it is illegal for an individual to "possess or administer a controlled or dangerous substance." The law also makes it a criminal defense to attempt to obtain controlled substances through deceit, like using a false name or forging a prescription.
Factors that Affect Drug Possession Penalties
When it comes to possession of illegal substances in Maryland, the penalties that an individual faces vary significantly, depending on the circumstances surrounding the individual's possession.
- The type of substance matters. Possession of marijuana, for example, carries a lighter sentence than possession of other illegal drugs.
- How much of the illegal substance an individual was found with can have just as much--if not more--of an impact as the type of substance possessed. The quantity of the illegal substance will determine the severity of the punishment.
- Prior convictions of drug possession can also increase the penalties that an individual can face. Typically, the first offense of drug possession generally carries a lighter sentence than subsequent offenses.
Penalties for Violating Maryland's Drug Possession Statute
Drug possession charges are not matters to be taken lightly in Maryland. An individual who is found to be in possession of drugs other than marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor offense and can face up to one year in jail for the first offense. Penalties for drug possession increase for subsequent offenses, resulting in a prison sentence of up to two years. In addition to imprisonment, a person may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $25,000.
Possession of marijuana carries a lighter penalty than possession of other illegal substances in Maryland. A person who is found to be in possession of ten grams to fifty pounds of marijuana can be sentenced up to six months in jail, along with being charged a fine of up to $1,000.
It is important to note that the above-referenced penalties only apply to those who intend to use the drug for personal use. Punishment for violation of § 5-601 increases drastically if an individual is found to be in possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute such a substance. Depending on how much of the illegal substance an individual is found with, a person in possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute faces a felony charge punishable by up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
Defenses to § 5-601
If you have been charged with drug possession, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, certain defenses may lessen the penalties of the charge that you face. In some circumstances, these defenses can cause the charges to be dropped altogether.
Fourth Amendment Violations
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to due process. As part of this right, the law provides protection of citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by officers. As illegal drugs are most often discovered by officers through a search of an individual or his or her property, it is imperative that an officer conduct the search in a lawful manner. In order to search a person or his or her property, for example, an officer must have "probable cause" to conduct the search, To have probable cause means the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the individual is in possession of illegal substances.
If the officer who discovered your possession of an illegal substance goes beyond what is allowed by the Fourth Amendment, evidence of the drugs cannot be used at trial to prove an individual's guilt. As such, charges resulting from unlawful searches and seizures are often dropped.
While unlawful search and seizure is one of the most common defenses to a charge of drug possession, other defenses may help your case. Such defenses include:
- The drugs were planted by another person;
- The prosecutor did not obtain a proper lab analysis of the substance before your trial; and -- among other defenses --
- The drugs found in or on your property belonged to someone else, and you were unaware of its existence.
Facing a Charge of Drug Possession? Peters Law, LLC is Here to Help
If you are facing a charge of drug possession in Maryland, you don't have to defend your case alone. James Peters has built a reputation for fighting on behalf of those who face drug charges and is dedicated to helping clients by providing competent representation to ensure a fair outcome. Don't try to fight your case alone; a conviction of drug possession can impact your life deeply. Take charge of your situation--to schedule a consultation to speak to James Peters about your drug charge, fill out an online contact form or call us at (301) 795-8272 today.