Penalties for a First-Offense Marijuana Possession Charge

Interviewer: What are the possible penalties for a first-time marijuana possession charge?

First-Offense Possession May Be Charged as a Misdemeanor

Court:  I believe first-time possession of marijuana is going to be a Class B misdemeanor. So, it’s similar to a first-time DUI, which, is a Class B misdemeanor. For example, theft or simple assault is also classified as Class B misdemeanors. So the maximum penalty that the judge could give you is up to 180 days in jail, and then up to a $1,000 fine.

There Are Statutory Maximum Penalties for a First Offense

So that’s the statutory maximum the judge can’t exceed. In reality, for first-time offense, you’re not looking at any significant jail time. It’s pretty common for first-time offender to be able to just receive probation. Or you could even get a plea in advance many times.

Is a Plea in Advance a Viable Option to Consider?

Frequently, a plea in advance is the best option for somebody if you are guilty or you don’t have a very good case. This is because a plea in advance is you make a deal with the court to complete the probation requirements for which you are sentenced. And then as long as you do everything that you’re supposed to, then the court never actually enters your conviction.

If You Abide By the Terms of Your Plea in Advance, Your Conviction May Be withheld from Your Record

So, the court sort of holds the conviction out there over your head, but it never goes on your record. As long as you do everything you are ordered to, then you can move on and you can have a clean slate.

Probation as an Alternate to a Plea in Advance: If You Are Sentenced to Probation, the Conviction May Be Entered on Your Record

For instance, if you were convicted of possession of marijuana, then you probably won’t be sentenced to jail time if it’s just a first offense. You’ll probably just get probation, but the problem is that that conviction is on your record. You don’t want that on your record if you’re looking to get in a college or looking at future job prospects.

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A Conviction on your Criminal Record Will Affect Future Employment Opportunities

Also in the future, if you have any sort of career that requires disclosure for licensing purposes, that’s obviously not going to be an advantage. So, with a plea in advance – what you’re doing is a similar probation to if you actually were convicted, but they’re going to hold that conviction off your record so that it doesn’t affect you forever. You’re not going to be stigmatized and criminalized in your future.

Interviewer: So, as long as you abide with the conditions from the court, then you’ll never have a conviction on your record.

Penalties for a Conviction for Drug Possession May Include a License Suspension

Court: Yes and one other factor that many people don’t realize with a conviction for possession of drugs, one of the penalties is it can involve quite often is a driver’s license suspension just like a DUI can.

So, if you’re caught in possession of drugs, and there’s a vehicle involved, for example, if they find it in your car; even if you’re not impaired at the time, or they don’t charge you with a DUI, there’s still likely to be a license suspension that follows the possession charge. So, that’s another problem.

Utah Does Not Have an Extensive Public Transportation System

And the license suspensions a lot of times with DUIs and drug possession, that’s one of the toughest things about the sentence because people need cars to get maintain their livelihood. You need to get to your job. And Utah is not the kind of place that has an extensive public transportation system, such as subways and taxis.

So, if you don’t have a car, a lot of times you’re in a difficult position. So that’s one of the more serious consequences actually that you’re looking at. You’re probably not going to get jail time for a first offense, but you might be looking at a license suspension that could be pretty problematic.

Your Driver’s License Could Be Suspended for 120 Days

Interviewer: What are the common lengths of time that they try to suspend your license?

Court: The license suspension is going to be similar to the DUI process. So, for the DUI and the license suspension, it’s an automatic suspension, and it’s for 120 days. I believe it’s a 180 day suspension for a possession of a controlled substance. So if you have an illegal substance such as marijuana or cocaine in your car, you’re looking at a six months suspension, I believe.

By Court Koehler

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