Getting arrested for a drug offense in Maryland is serious.
The failed war on drugs has taken a huge toll on individuals and communities across the nation. While some signs of reform have emerged, particularly regarding marijuana possession, drug crimes remain incredibly serious and can cause loss of liberty, fines, and collateral consequences for those convicted. Because drug offenses remain serious in Maryland, its extremely important to speak to a criminal defense lawyer to help protect your liberty and your constitutional rights. Maryland has several types of crimes including misdemeanors and felonies depending on the drug type, drug quantities, and surrounding circumstances of the offense.
Maryland Felony Drug Offenses
Possession with intent to distribute is a felony drug offense in the State of Maryland and the severity of the offense depends on the drug in question. For Schedule I and II drugs, the maximum penalty for the offense is 20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.00. For hallucinogens including LSD and dissociative analgesics like PCP, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.00. Finally, drugs that are not schedule I or II carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail and/or a $15,000.00 fine.
Maryland also has mandatory minimums for possessing large quantities of drugs. For fifty or more pounds of marijuana, there is a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. The five-year maximum penalty also applies to possession of 448 grams of cocaine or methamphetamine, 50 grams of crack cocaine, 28 grams of opium, heroin, or morphine, 1,000 doses of LSD, and 16 ounces of PCP. Whereas for most drug crimes like possession with intent to distribute the government must prove certain “indicia” of sale. That means the government typically needs evidence like scales, baggies, cutting agents, and large quantities of drugs and cash. However, for these five-year mandatory minimum offenses, the large quantities are enough to trigger the mandatory prison time.
How Do Drug Charge Convictions Impact Future Employment?
Drug charge convictions, particularly for controlled substances or drug distribution, can severely impact future employment opportunities. The criminal justice system labels drug offenses, from marijuana possession to felony drug charges, with serious penalties, including a criminal record that employers can access during background checks. This stigma can limit job prospects, professional licensing, and educational opportunities.
Maryland Misdemeanor Offenses
Simple possession of a controlled substance in Maryland is typically a misdemeanor (unless it’s simple possession of the large quantities mentioned above). The maximum penalty for simple possession is four years in prison and/or a fine of $25,000.00. These maximum penalties, however, do not mean that a person convicted will necessarily get the max. Maximum penalties simply mean the legal maximum a judge can sentence someone under the law. Maryland Criminal Code Section 5-601 prohibits the possession of controlled substances and also makes it a crime to try and procure prescription drugs through fraudulent means. This crime is also a misdemeanor and it carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine for first offenders. Second and greater offenses carry larger maximum penalties.
Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization
Maryland Drug Paraphernalia Laws
Accordingly, Maryland courts have outlined factors to consider as evidence that an object or tool is used for drug distribution or consumption. These factors include any expert testimony the government produces, whether any drugs are found in close proximity of the object, if residue from a drug is found in or on the object, advertising or written material evidencing drug use, and prior drug offenses the possessor may have.
On the other hand, Maryland has also decriminalized marijuana paraphernalia that evidences personal use. This includes things like bongs, grinders, rolling papers and other items associated with personal marijuana use.
Diversion in Maryland Drug Cases
It is possible that in some situations, the State will allow individuals charged with drug crimes who have no record to participate in some form of diversion. Diversion is a process where instead of pleading guilty or taking the case to trial, the State and the accused enter into a contract in which the accused agrees to complete some conditions in exchange for dismissal of the charges. For drug crimes, the conditions may be things like drug classes or treatment, community service, and/or fines. Successful completion of diversion, where offered, will usually result in dismissal of the case.
Can Drug Convictions Be Expunged from Your Record?
Under certain jurisdictions like Maryland law, expungement of a drug conviction is possible, especially for first-time offenders or less severe charges like drug possession. A qualified Maryland drug lawyer can provide a free consultation to discuss the potential for clearing a drug crime from your record.
Defense attorneys, leveraging extensive knowledge of Maryland criminal defense, can challenge drug-related crime charges, from the legality of the evidence (e.g., illegally obtained evidence) to arguing for a not guilty verdict based on insufficient probable cause.
The process and feasibility of expungement vary greatly depending on the nature of the drug crime, prior criminal offenses, and the specifics of state law. For instance, recent changes, possibly reflected in Senate bills, may affect the approach to drug crimes involving controlled, dangerous substances, aiming for a more rehabilitative than punitive approach.
Engaging criminal defense lawyers with a strong background in drug law, from distribution to controlled substance laws, maximizes the chance for a favorable outcome, such as expungement, especially for those facing drug charges for the first time.
Hiring a Maryland Drug Attorney
If charged with a drug offense in Maryland, whether misdemeanor or felony, its always important to consult with a qualified and experienced drug attorney. When looking for an attorney, you should seek out someone with experience practicing in the courthouse where you are charged. Moreover, its important to find someone who will aggressively represent you against the government and not just hold your hand while you plead guilty.
Attorney Paolo Gnocchi is a fearless and aggressive advocate with years of experience defending drug charges in Maryland. Attorney Gnocchi practices in Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Prince George’s, and surrounding counties in both General District and Circuit Courts. He will give you advice that serves your best interest and ensure your constitutional rights are protected.