Connecticut Marijuana Possession Lawyer
While Connecticut courts and prosecutors may have recently relaxed their views on marijuana possession, it is important to realize that unless you have a medical marijuana license to possess marijuana, it is still illegal to possess marijuana in Connecticut. That’s right. Possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana may no longer a crime in Connecticut, but it is still an infraction under the Connecticut criminal code. And if you plead guilty or are found guilty of this infraction, your life can be detrimentally affected in numerous ways.
Same goes for possessing drug paraphernalia associated with marijuana—it’s not a crime, but it is an infraction And as most top Greenwich and Stamford criminal lawyers will agree, these two charges are punishable by fines, and in many cases, can have long-term consequences on all of your criminal, financial and employment background checks going forward. So if you are facing charges for 21a-267(d) Paraphernalia or 21a-279a Possession of Marijuana in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Bridgeport, or anywhere else in Connecticut, then you should contact a top Connecticut criminal lawyer right away to discuss whether it is possible to get these infraction charges dismissed.
Possession of Less than One-Half Ounce of Marijuana
The relatively new infraction charge in Connecticut for possessing less than one-half ounce of marijuana is codified in C.G.S. § 21a-279a. A conviction for this infraction carries a maximum $150 for a first offense, and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. Because it is an infraction, you cannot be sentenced to jail or put on probation. After two convictions for this infraction, the court has the legal authority order you into a drug education program. Note that even the tiniest grains or remnants of marijuana can lead to a 21a-279a simple possession charge.
Should You Fight Your 21a-279a Marijuana Possession Ticket?
Our clients ask us this question often. Should they just pay the ticket and not waste money and time fighting their simple possession of marijuana charge? Should they hire a lawyer to fight their 21a-279a marijuana possession ticket? The answer is an unequivocal Yes.
Some of the best Stamford criminal lawyers who have followed the decriminalization of marijuana process have argued that Connecticut lawmakers may not be doing the public such a favor in the decriminalization movement. It appears that lawmakers are only halfway to the finish line, as complete legalization (as has happened in Colorado and Washington State) would have been the best course of legislation. You see, under the old marijuana possession laws, if you were charged with simple possession of marijuana, then you could usually take a drug education class and have your criminal charges dismissed and completely erased. Now, however, police in towns and cities like Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien are writing up 21a-279a infraction tickets and people charged with 21a-279a simple marijuana possession are simply checking the “guilty” box and sending in their tickets with a check for $50 or $100. It seems like no big deal at the time; however, a conviction for marijuana possession will now show up on any criminal, financial or employment background check for a period of 7 years.
The better course for dealing with a 21a-279a is to hire a top criminal attorney who handles 21a-279a and 21a-267(d) marijuana charges who can work with you and the prosecutors to find a way to have your marijuana possession and paraphernalia charges dismissed.
Consequences for Pleading Guilty to 21a-279a Simple Possession of Marijuana Charges
Even if it is crystal clear that you are guilty of possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana, there is a laundry list of reasons for why you should try and fight the ticket or have a top Stamford Connecticut marijuana possession criminal lawyer assist you in getting the ticket resolved in Connecticut Superior Court without a guilty plea.
First, if you, through your attorney, accept responsibility for your conduct and have your criminal lawyer present the appropriate leniency and mitigation arguments, you can sometimes be offered an alternative to pleading guilty. Courts and prosecutors understand the long-term consequences of pleading guilty to 21a-279a marijuana possession charges, and in certain cases will deem you worthy of a second chance.
Second, if you check the “guilty” box and send your 21a-279a Possession of Marijuana ticket in as a guilty plea, it immediately gets reported to Connecticut’s Centralized Infractions Bureau in Hartford. There, state officials then record the infraction guilty plea—or “conviction”—to the DMV and it will now show up on various background checks, such as:
- Criminal Background Checks – While not a crime, the “Possession of Marijuana” infraction will come up and be revealed to potential employers or landlords who are not as up-to-date or savvy on the recent drug law changes and trends. They could quickly draw false assumptions and conclusions about this conviction and your drug use. We have seen employers and landlords deny opportunities to our clients based on their record of even the most minor amounts of marijuana.
- Insurance Carrier Background Checks – Insurance carriers for auto insurance, life insurance and disability insurance regularly run intense background checks on their insureds. If you did not inform your carrier that you ingest marijuana on your insurance applications, and the insurance carrier sees a 21a-279a conviction on your infraction history, then you may be at risk of the carrier canceling your coverage or raising your premiums.
- Financial Industry Background Checks – For individuals who are applying for jobs where they are required to handle, manage or oversee the transfer of money on behalf of financial institutions, a conviction for simple possession of marijuana can affect an employer’s consideration of your job application.
Obviously, the stakes become very high—very quickly—when dealing with background checks. Therefore it is at least worth a phone call to a top Connecticut marijuana possession criminal lawyer to see whether it makes sense to fight your Connecticut 21a-279a marijuana possession or 21a-267(d) paraphernalia possession tickets.
What is Possession of Paraphernalia in Connecticut?
Possession of Paraphernalia in Connecticut is defined by Connecticut General Statutes § 21a-267 and classifies possession of paraphernalia an infraction that also carries a $150 fine for first offenders and $500 for second or subsequent offenses.
Paraphernalia is defined as any goods that aid in the storing, packing, concealing, repacking, inhaling or ingesting marijuana in a quantity less than one ounce.
Driver’s License Consequences for Under 21 Guilty Pleas to 21a-279a Simple Possession of Marijuana Charges
One additional deterrent Connecticut lawmakers have devised to deter teenagers and young adults from experimenting and using marijuana is the penalty of a driver’s license suspension. For those individuals under the age of 21 who plead guilty to 21a-279a Possession of Marijuana and 21a-267(d) Drug Paraphernalia charges, the DMV will suspend their driver’s license for a mandatory 60-days. Even worse, the suspension will be forever recorded in the driver’s DMV history, the driver will have to pay an additional $175 restoration fee to DMV to restore his or her license, and there could be significant and additional auto insurance consequences that result from the suspension (in addition to the infraction conviction). So if you are under 21 and have received a ticket for a 21a-279a charge, then these reasons alone should give you pause before pleading guilty and mailing in your guilty plea and fine payment.
Fighting Your 21a-279a Marijuana Possession Charges in Connecticut
The best drug lawyers in Stamford, Greenwich and elsewhere in Connecticut have had success fighting marijuana possession cases through diligence, aggressive advocacy and mitigation arguments. The two-attorney approach at Mark Sherman law ensures that at least two of our firm’s lawyers will review your police reports for technical and constitutional defects. We have seen aggressive and illegal search and seizure tactics applied by law enforcement in marijuana possession cases. Did they have the legal right to search your car? Your trunk? Your glove compartment? Your purse? Your backpack? Many times, your consent to search is not given and police jump the gun, invade your constitutionally protected privacy rights, and search for contraband without respecting due process and search warrant requirements.
We have also often successfully challenged the actual “possession” requirement for these charges, especially in scenarios where multiple individuals are associated with one drug user and the police charge everyone in the vicinity of the marijuana. In these cases, we argue that such arrest was illegal and worthy of a dismissal. Motions to dismiss and suppress are not uncommon in scenarios like these and the Mark Sherman Law Team will escalate and litigate these issue in Superior Court if it means we can get you the best chance for a complete dismissal of your case.
Contact a Connecticut Marijuana Possession Attorney at Mark Sherman Law Today
As discussed above, there are many moving parts that surround a 21a-279a marijuana possession ticket. Insurance consequences. Background check issues. DMV suspensions. All of these are issues to discuss with a Stamford criminal attorney prior to sending in a guilty plea to a 21a-279a or 21a-267(d) marijuana or paraphernalia possession charge.
While it may seem insignificant at first, there are many moving parts and unexpected consequences to pleading guilty to a possession of marijuana or possession of paraphernalia ticket in Connecticut. So if you are facing a possession of marijuana or paraphernalia ticket in Connecticut, you should contact one of the top Connecticut criminal lawyers at The Law Offices of Mark Sherman. Our team can help you fight your ticket as quickly and as cost effectively as possible, with the goal of keeping your record clean.