New Maryland marijuana civil citation law goes into effect October 1, 2016

The Maryland legislature took a step backward a gave the Maryland marijuana civil citation new teeth that may make a marijuana civil citation a bit more Serious.

Here are the highlights:

If you are under 21 and a received a citation for possession of marijuana less than 10 grams:

You must appear in court rather than prepay a fine.  A judge may impose a fine and drug treatment, an assessment or participation in drug education program.  (You should consult an attorney before using health insurance to pay for any of these programs).

If you fail to appear for court the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you may also face a penalty of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine or both.

A court may now keep a citation open (aka “sub curia”) pending receipt of proof that you completed a court approved drug treatment, drug education program, or an assessment.

(If you receive a marijuana citation on a college campus you should contact an attorney immediately)

If you are 21 or over and a received a Maryland marijuana civil citation for possession less than 10 grams:

A person over the age of 21 that has been found guilty twice previously of possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will have to appear before the court.  If you fail to appear for court the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you may also face a penalty of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine or both.

All Maryland marijuana civil citation:

Citations must now include the name, address and date of birth of the person charged.  Failure to include this information may require the court to dismiss the citation.

The State’s Attorney is authorized to prosecute these civil citations and may decline to prosecute (nolle prosecui) or place the case on the Stet docket which means the case may be reopened within a year and only for good cause after one year.

The State has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence (not reasonable doubt).

The Court may assess court costs of $5 in addition to a fine.

More bad news:

Currently the citations do not show up on Maryland Judiciary Case Search and the case is not open to public inspection.  The new law continues to shield the case from the public view if it is dismissed, the state declines to prosecute (nolle prosecui), or if you are found “not guilty.”  But in other dispositions shielding will only occur if certain conditions are met.  The new law seems to allow the case to appear on the public record and possibly the internet if:

  1. The Defendant does not pre-pay the fine
  2. The Defendant pleads guilty but does not pay the fine and costs
  3. A person receives a Probation Before Judgment but fails to pay the fine and costs and completed the terms imposed by the court. (it is not clear what terms a court may impose to a person 21 years or older).
  4. The case has been removed from the Stet docket after the fines and costs are paid.
    1. This is the most worrying outcome as a case may remain on the Stet docket until the state or the Defendant asks that it be taken off the Stet docket. Either the state or you may request the case be re-opened within one year, but after one year “good cause” must be shown to remove the case from the Stet docket. Therefore, it may remain online for a very long time.

The “good news” for Maryland marijuana civil citation

The court is required to apply the same evidentary standards as prescribed by rule or law for the trial of a criminal case. (Presumably these means the state will have to produce a chemist report indicating an expert has actually identified the substance as marijuana. This may also mean that your 5th amendment right to remain silent and not testify may be honored.  It will be interesting to see how judges interpret this section.)

The court will make sure you received a copy of the charges and explain the charges.

You may cross examine all witnesses who appear against you, produce your own evidence or witnesses on your behalf, and you may choose to testify on your own behalf.

You also have the right to be represented by counsel of your choice at your expense.  That means a public defender may not represent you.

Here is a link to the current Maryland marijuana civil citation

Marijuana Possession is still Illegal under Federal Law

Under federal law, marijuana possession in any amount and for any reason is still illegal. You must be careful to preserve your rights when interacting with law enforcement as you may be dealing with a federal agent rather than a Maryland police officer. There is no similar civil citation for marijuana possession in the federal system.

*Please note that this information is not a substitute for legal advice. You should contact an attorney if you receive a Maryland marijuana civil citation.