Whether your case involves simple possession or possession with intent to distribute, there are specific defenses a marijuana attorney can explore in order to obtain the best result.
Is weed legal in the State of Utah? Although marijuana is legal in many states, including surrounding states of Nevada, California, Montana, Colorado, – but not in Utah unless you have gone through the legal process of obtaining a Utah medical cannabis card.
Marijuana possession charges can be confusing because of the ever-changing legal landscape of marijuana. Possession of marijuana while operating a vehicle can result in the suspension of your drivers’ license.
Possession of marijuana conviction can lead to loss of gun possession rights and can negatively affect your ability to receive federal loan funding and acceptance into colleges and military institutions.
Bangerter Law Firm has over 15 years of experience in dealing with criminal charges related to marijuana possession, cultivation, distribution and use.
Although marijuana is becoming more and more accepted within society and the laws have recently changed to reduce the penalties, it is important to allow an experienced attorney to review each and every aspect of your case.
Call Bangerter Law Firm for a free consultation today.
Misdemeanor Marijuana Charges
In the State of Utah, possession of less than 100 pounds of marijuana for first time offenders is charges a class B misdemeanor.
Even if the marijuana was not actually on your person, you may still be charged under a “constructive possession” theory by the State of Utah.
Misdemeanor marijuana charges are handled differently by each court within the State of Utah. Some courts take the charges more seriously than others. Some courts require additional treatment and other components. A marijuana attorney that knows the particularities of each judge can be very useful in your specific case. Misdemeanor marijuana charges are prime candidates for a Plea in Abeyance, which may allow you to to ultimately have your marijuana charges dismissed!
If you were driving a car while in possession of marijuana, the state may try to take your drivers’ license for 6 months. This harsh penalty can sometime be avoided though negotiations and plea deals that will result in a “no driving” finding on the record which will save your drivers’ license!
What Are Marijuana Charges?
While an increasing number of states are making marijuana available for recreational purposes, Utah is not yet among them. Even a seemingly minor cannabis charge can have major consequences such as drivers’ license revocation, loss of gun rights, loss of student loan eligibility, and loss of professional licenses. Felony marijuana offenses may lead to even harsher penalties.
Despite advocates calling for statewide marijuana legalization, the only way you may currently possess marijuana within state lines is with a valid Utah medical cannabis card obtained via the Utah Department of Health. This is in contrast to old laws, which allowed you to obtain a medical cannabis card after securing an “affirmative defense” recommendation letter from a doctor.
This is just one of many examples of how Utah’s recreational marijuana and medical marijuana laws are constantly evolving. If you find yourself facing state or federal marijuana charges, consider hiring an attorney who has considerable experience defending against these drug charges and has a firm grasp of the state’s seemingly always in-flux recreational and medical marijuana regulations.
Marijuana Possession Offenses
Without a valid medical cannabis card, you may face prosecution for possessing virtually any amount of marijuana or even just marijuana paraphernalia. The severity of the penalties you may face for drug possession, possession of a controlled substance, or possession of drug paraphernalia may vary based on several factors. These variables include how much marijuana law enforcement officials charge you with having and whether it is your first time facing such charges.
However, even small amounts of marijuana and simple possession charges carry substantial penalties, and the penalties increase in severity from there. The same holds true when it comes to the repercussions defendants may face if convicted of possession of paraphernalia.
Marijuana Possession Penalties
Unlike its neighbors in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Arizona and California, Utah does not allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes under any circumstance. Until Utah voters have a chance to approve the use of marijuana recreationally, the penalties you may face in a marijuana possession case are as follows.
In 2015, House Bill 348 was passed in Utah which was part of the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative.” The penalties for most controlled substances were reduced, including for possession of marijuna. The previous system of tiered penalties which depended on how much marijuana you possessed was removed. The purpose of doing so was to encourage treatment and rehabilitation rather than mandatory incarceration.
Currently in Utah, possession of marijuna in nearly all cases for first or second time offenders is charged as a class B misdemeanor with the maximum penalty being 6 months of jail and a fine up to $1000. Possession for third time offenders is raised to a Class A misdemeanor and a fourth offense is raised to a third-degree felony.
Possession of over 100 pounds of marijuna will be charged as a second degree felony no matter how many prior convictions the defendant has.
If the defendant was driving a motor vehicle while in possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, their drivers’ license can be revoked for 6 months. A skilled marijuana defense attorney may be able to find ways around this provision.
Possession of paraphernalia
Possessing marijuana smoking devices may lead to possession of paraphernalia charges. These drug offenses bring potential penalties that include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Keep in mind that unlike other states, Utah authorities do not need to have a warrant to search your vehicle if they suspect a marijuana crime is taking place. In the absence of a warrant or your consent, they only need probable cause to do so. Probable cause is any type of evidence indicating that a criminal offense has occurred. So, the mere smell emanating from your car may constitute probable cause for authorities to search it and lead to a marijuana possession charge.
You should also know that, if you are a recipient of federal financial aid, any type of conviction for possessing marijuana may make you ineligible for financial aid for a year or longer. How long you stand to lose eligibility for financial assistance varies based on the severity of your charge, among other factors. In some cases, you may be able to take steps to regain financial aid eligibility earlier than planned following a drug conviction.
What Does a Utah Marijuana Possession Lawyer Do?
State marijuana violations carry serious penalties that can potentially impact everything from your ability to find a place to live to your ability to make a living. Having marijuana in your motor vehicle may lead to drug possession charges and serious penalties, even if the marijuana was not your own. Known as “constructive possession” charges, such criminal charges indicate that authorities believed you had “dominion and control” over a controlled substance because it was in your vehicle or home.
If authorities charge you with constructive possession because they find marijuana in your vehicle, they may take your driver’s license for up to six months. In some cases, you may be able to seek a “no driving” finding or Plea in Abeyance that may help protect your license – and livelihood.
You also face strict sanctions for possessing marijuana without a properly obtained medical card. An attorney with experience in this area may be able to help you navigate your marijuana case and see if you have any options available to you in terms of lessening the charge you face or pursuing some alternative means of accountability.
You may be eligible to participate in drug court following a marijuana arrest, which may help you avoid jail time and other possible penalties associated with the offense. An attorney may be able to help you if you want to seek an expungement because of a past marijuana offense that is causing you trouble. If your conviction is for cannabis possession and you qualify for a certificate of eligibility, you may be able to have your criminal record expunged if your situation meets certain criteria.
If your cannabis charge was a misdemeanor, you might have additional options available to you. You may be able to enter something called a “plea in abeyance,” which is essentially a suspended plea. If you make such a plea and then uphold certain compliance requirements for a set period (which might include paying fines, remaining free from arrest, and so on), the charges against you undergo dismissal.
Having a solid attorney-client relationship may also help you navigate other areas relating to your charge. If your charge constituted a probation violation, for example, you may need your attorney to accompany you to probation violation hearings. Ultimately, having an attorney who is well-versed in state marijuana laws may help minimize the damage your arrest has on your life and give you your best shot at success moving forward.
Recent Medical Marijuana Law Changes
While recreational marijuana is not legal under any circumstances in Utah, the use of medical marijuana may also lead to charges if you fail to follow the state’s strict guidelines for medical patients. Recent regulatory changes to laws have caused considerable confusion among many residents and patients.
One major change to the state’s medical marijuana rules involves the fact that you may no longer receive a medical cannabis card from a doctor who issues a recommendation. Instead, you must have a card from the Utah Department of Health dictating that you have the right to possess certain amounts of medical marijuana within state lines.
The rules regarding obtaining medical marijuana in other states and then bringing it back to Utah have also changed. As of early January 2021, Utah residents may no longer purchase medical marijuana elsewhere and then transport it back into the state.
Protect your Future
Until Utah joins many other states in legalizing marijuana for recreational use, you stand to face considerable sanctions for possessing it. In some instances, you may be able to plead guilty to a lesser charge or enroll in drug court as an alternative means of punishment. Having an experienced attorney from a Utah law office represent you when facing misdemeanor or felony drug charges may give you your best shot at putting your drug arrest behind you and moving forward with life as you know it.
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