With marijuana likely to be legalized in the upcoming November election, are people STILL actually going to jail for non-violent pot possession cases in Port Huron and St. Clair County?
The short answer is yes.
The purpose of this blog is not to talk about what should be true, but what is true. Now, is it likely that a first-offender is likely to go to jail for possession of marijuana in the 72nd District Court? Not likely. But it still has to be treated as a real concern. More likely, and a bigger concern, is when somebody is put on probation for possession of marijuana and violates their probation in some way, particularly by using again. In such a case, depending on what Judge a person draws, jail time becomes a more significant concern.
Furthermore, under state law, possession of marijuana is a one-year misdemeanor. To put in perspective, that is the same maximum penalty for aggravated assault. An aggravated assault is more than a simple assault and results in more serious injuries. Yet on paper, causing a person an aggravated injury after an illegal battery carries the same maximum penalty as merely having marijuana. Not dealing it. Not pushing it on other people. Just possessing it. Even if the possession is arguably beneficial for somebody who doesn’t have a Michigan Medical Marijuana card.
If you think the law is ridiculous, so do I. But again, I have to deal with what the law actually is, not what I and many others think it should be.
Recently I represented two different people in Port Huron on probation violation misdemeanors. One individual was facing their first violation on a possession of marijuana charge. They tested positive for pot several months into probation.
The probation office recommended one year in the St. Clair County Jail and closing the file.
Judges put weight on recommendations of their probation office and it is not at all unheard of for such sentences to be handed out. While this may not be common in other cities and jurisdictions, it can and does happen here. Thankfully I was able to convince a skeptical judge against adopting that proposal and giving my client (another) chance.
All this to say that even “small” cases like this cannot be blown off and require the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Even after the law likely changes, there will still be provisions where people can be charged with illegal possession of marijuana. The ballot proposal does not apply to people under 21. People on probation will generally not be allowed to use marijuana, even if they have a medical card, except in rare circumstances. Also, just as the law is now, people will not be able to operate a motor vehicle after consuming marijuana. Prosecutors can charge such cases several different ways such as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI, DUI), Operating while in the Presence of a Controlled Substance, or Operating Under the Influence of Drugs. Absurdly, under current Michigan law, a person does not even need to be impaired if a blood draw reveals there was marijuana in their body while driving. All that needs to be proven was that any amount, even a minuscule amount, was present.
Think such cases don’t get charged? They do. I’m defending such cases right now.
This is just a surface level review of one area of criminal law. Many people do not understand our laws and understandably are frustrated by them. Public policy still is driven in large part by misinformation. Which is all the more reason you or your friends or loved ones need strong representation if anyone has been charged with a drug or alcohol crime such as possession of marijuana, intent to deliver, possession of analogues, OWI, DUI, drunk driving, or any other criminal offense that requires an experienced defense attorney.
For help in Port Huron and St. Clair County (Which includes Marysville, Fort Gratiot, Marine City, and all other cities in the county) in the 72nd District Court or the 31st Circuit Court for all felonies and misdemeanors contact Bill Barnwell of Barnwell Law directly at 810-394-2952.