On New Marijuana Laws In Maryland And How To Define 'Posession'

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Price Benowitz LLP Criminal Lawyer Colleen Kirby on what determines possession in the State of Maryland.

Starting in October 2012, the State of Maryland will change the penalties they access to those who are arrested for possession of marijuana, according to U.S. Politics Today. Previously one of the strictest States in the Country in terms of marijuana legislation, the new bill signed into law by Governor O’Malley will help streamline the legal process for those who are arrested with what the State considers to be more serious offenses.

While the penalties are reduced, there are still very real consequences associated with marijuana possession. Price Benowitz LLP criminal lawyer Colleen Kirby reminds us about what the state uses to define possession.

“There are two types of possession,” Kirby says. “One is actual possession and the other is constructive. Actual possession, I like to compare to a television remote. Let's say that you're sitting there watching TV and you're holding the remote in your hand. You were in actual possession of the remote. However, let's say you put the remote down and it's next to you and at any point in time you can reach over and pick it up and use it. That would be a constructive possession. The courts look at a variety of factors in determining whether the person can be convicted of possession based on the constructive possession. One of the things they look at is 'mutual use and enjoyment.' If there is any evidence that the parties involved are mutually using and enjoying the item in question, then that would be one element.

“Another element," Ms. Kirby continues, “would be are you aware that this item is here? So, for example, if you get into someone's car, it's not your car, and they have marijuana in their glove box, there's no way for you to reasonably know that that's in there. However, if you're in someone's car and it's sitting right in front of you on the floor, or right next to you on the center console, then obviously you know it's there.”

The new law serves to reduce the penalties associated with a small amount of marijuana. The previous State law enabled prosecutors to seek up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for anyone found with an amount less than 10 grams, according to that U.S. Politics Today article. The penalties would increase greatly if one was found with a greater total. The new law reduces the maximum sentence to 90-days and the maximum fine to $500. The amount of time spent in jail will help alleviate the burden placed on taxpayers by an overcrowded judicial system.

There will also be a change in the way that the cases will be heard that will help make the process more efficient. Instead of summoning a jury of the defendants’ peers to hear each particular charge, cases will now be heard by a criminal court judge. This should help both the efficiency of getting these relatively minor cases through the justice system, as well as reduce the cost for each trial.

Price Benowitz LLP is a Washington D.C. based law firm with attorneys in Maryland and Virginia as well. For more information on Colleen Kirby Attorney at Law, please visit her site. You can also visit our Virginia criminal lawyer and D.C. criminal lawyer sites for more information on those offices or to schedule a free consultation.

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