The Trend Toward Legalization and Decriminalization of Marijuana Is Changing The Way Connecticut Law Enforcement and Prosecutors Are Enforcing Marijuana Laws.
In 2011, Connecticut lawmakers legalized—or more specifically, decriminalized—the possession of less than a one-half ounce of marijuana. As a result, it is no longer a crime to possess this quantity of marijuana. Instead it is an infraction, which can only be punished with up to a $150 fine for a first offense, and a $500 fine for a second offense. No jail. No probation. Usually no drug programs. Same goes for drug paraphernalia. Not a crime—just an infraction. The full text of these statutes which decriminalize marijuana and paraphernalia can be found at C.G.S. § 21a-279a and C.G.S. § 21a-267(d).
So how are these new laws being enforced, if at all? The answer is pretty liberally– based on the volume of infractions that appear to have come through the Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk, New Canaan, and Bridgeport criminal courts. The focus appears to be enforcing these laws against individuals under the age of 21. For those people, a guilty plea also includes a 60-day DMV suspension of your driver’s license.
At Mark Sherman Law, we get many calls from people wondering if they need to hire an attorney to fight the marijuana or drug paraphernalia charges in Connecticut? The answer is usually yes. Here’s why:
it’s very easy to just check the “Guilty” box and pay the $50 to $150 fine for the infraction. After all, it’s not a crime and you will not have a permanent criminal record for doing so. You also won’t have to pay an attorney to represent you, and you won’t have to take a day or two off of work to go to court. But here’s the rub that they don’t tell you in the fine print of your marijuana summons—that once you plead guilty to the marijuana or paraphernalia charge, it is permanently on your driving history record as an infraction, and will come up on any thorough background check of yours run by potential employers or anyone else interested in your driving history, such as auto insurance carriers. Many people do not want this on their record, especially if they are thinking of going into an industry that is sensitive to drug use or abuse.
The attorneys at Mark Sherman Law are well-equipped to defend you against marijuana charges. At least two attorneys from our firm will scrutinize your police report, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and make sure the police did not violate any of your federal or state constitutional rights in their search and seizure of your person, car, or home. We then work aggressively with the prosecutors and court system to get your charges dropped, and if necessary, we will take your case to trial. Our only goal is to get you the best result possible—the complete dismissal of your case without a guilty plea to marijuana or drug paraphernalia possession, no matter how long it takes.
The good news with the marijuana laws is that these charges are now infractions, not crimes. With infractions, the attorneys at Mark Sherman Law can often have your appearance at Stamford, Norwalk, or Bridgeport Superior Court excused for the infraction tickets. While your excusal requests from court proceedings are granted on a case-by-case basis, we can usually limit the inconvenience to you and your family and have your case resolved without you having to take time from your work or family. We recognize your time is valuable and make every effort to accommodate and work around your schedule.
For those who have convictions for misdemeanors under the old marijuana and paraphernalia possession laws, we can help you get that marijuana possession charge erased and expunged. You should benefit from the change in the law. The process takes a little time but in certain circumstances, the attorneys at Mark Sherman Law have successfully convinced the courts in Stamford and Norwalk to vacate these old pleas off the record of some clients based on the passage of the new law. If you are interested in learning more about this, please gather your paperwork from your old marijuana possession conviction case, and call an attorney at Mark Sherman Law to discuss how to get this process started.
Connecticut lawmakers have also recently enacted legislation which will soon permit Connecticut medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana under very specific restrictions and guidelines. The Mark Sherman Law team is following these developments closely and will continue to post updates on this emerging area of Connecticut medical marijuana law on this blog and the Firm’s Twitter account.
If you have a marijuana possession or marijuana paraphernalia related question in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk, New Canaan, or Westchester County, please call an attorney at Mark Sherman Law to learn how we can help you. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (203) 358-4700.