Defending Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis: What You Need to Know
When faced with Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis, it’s essential to understand your legal rights and the possible defenses that may be available to you. Possession laws and penalties vary depending on the quantity of marijuana and several other factors.
Different defenses can be employed, ranging from unlawful search and seizure to issues with the chain of custody of the evidence. It is advisable to seek legal counsel, such as the services provided by Gerald Miller, P.A., a Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer, to guide you through the legal process.
The Impact of Minneapolis Decriminalization of Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana
Minnesota’s decriminalization of the possession of fewer than 42.5 grams of marijuana applies only to cases where the drug is for personal use. Possession of larger amounts and any amount with the intent to sell remains a criminal act.
In Minnesota, possession of 42.5 grams or less of marijuana is considered a petty misdemeanor, which is not technically a crime in Minnesota law. Instead, it is more like a traffic ticket. It carries a maximum fine of $200 and no jail time. Possession of larger amounts, selling marijuana, or possessing it with intent to distribute may result in felony charges.
Though not a technical crime, you still have the right to fight the fine if you are innocent. For example, if you had no knowledge that someone left a small amount of marijuana in your vehicle, you could plead your lack of knowledge as a defense.
Felony Marijuana Possession in Minneapolis
Minnesota law draws a hard line at the possession of 42.5 grams of marijuana, classifying it as an automatic felony. Minnesota law allows for probation and shorter periods of incarceration where no aggravating factors exist, such as an intent to sell or a previous conviction. The maximum sentence increases according to the quantity as follows:
- Possession of more than 42.5 grams up to 10 kilograms: This is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Possession of more than 10 kilograms up to 50 kilograms: This is a felony punishable by a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- Possession of more than 50 kilograms up to 100 kilograms: This is a felony punishable by a potential sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
- Possession of more than 100 kilograms: This is a felony punishable by a potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
Marijuana Possession and Aggravating Factors
Aggravating factors substantially increase the sentence handed down to convicts. Because of this, fighting back against aggravated charges is particularly important. Some of the factors that can result in a hard time for marijuana possession include the following:
Individuals with previous Marijuana charges in Minneapolis may face stiffer penalties for marijuana possession. If the individual has been convicted of a similar offense in the past, the court may view them as a repeat offender and increase the penalty. This can include longer prison sentences, larger fines, or stricter terms for probation.
Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute or sell marijuana is considered a more serious offense than simple possession. Evidence of intent can include large quantities of marijuana, packaging materials, scales, or customer lists. The sentence can be significantly more severe because it’s seen as not just a personal use issue, but also a public health concern.
School Zone Violations
Selling or possessing marijuana within a designated school zone, public housing zone, or park zone is seen as more egregious because of the potential impact on children and vulnerable populations. The presence of marijuana in these areas can lead to increased penalties due to the potential harm to community safety.
Involvement of Minors
If a minor is involved in the offense, such as using a minor to distribute the drug, penalties may be more severe. This is considered particularly egregious due to the potential harm to the minor and society’s interest in protecting young people.
Large Quantities That Allow the State to Presume the Intent to Distribute
Possession of large amounts of marijuana can lead to more severe charges and penalties. Large quantities may be seen as evidence of intent to distribute, even if no other evidence of distribution is present. The exact thresholds for what constitutes a ‘large quantity’ can vary, but possession of a quantity significantly larger than what might be expected for personal use will typically lead to enhanced charges.
Best Defenses Against Felony Marijuana Possession Charges in Minneapolis
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The unlawful search and seizure defense is based on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant or probable cause.
This defense applies when law enforcement officers search a person or their property without a valid search warrant, or without a valid exception to the warrant requirement, such as a search incidental to arrest. The defense argues that since the evidence was obtained unlawfully, the court must exclude it. Evidence exclusion of all the alleged contraband destroys the state’s case.
Here are two examples where the defense might apply:
Vehicle Searches: Suppose a police officer pulls a driver over for a minor traffic violation like a broken taillight. The officer has no reason to suspect the presence of illegal drugs, but he insists on searching the vehicle and finds marijuana. The driver could argue that the search was unlawful, as the officer had no probable cause to suspect the presence of illegal substances.
Home Searches: Consider a situation where police officers enter a person’s home without a warrant or the homeowner’s consent and find marijuana. The person could argue that the evidence should be excluded because it was obtained through an unlawful search.
In both examples, if a court agrees that the search was unlawful, the marijuana evidence could be excluded, which could lead to the charges being dropped or a not-guilty verdict
Lack of Possession Defense
The lack of possession defense is often used in marijuana possession cases. It asserts that the defendant was not in actual or constructive possession of the marijuana in question.
Actual possession means the person has direct physical control over the substance, such as carrying it in their pocket. Constructive possession means the person had no direct control over the substance on their person, but they had control over the area where it was found, like a car or a house, and they knew that the substance was present.
For this defense to be successful, the defendant must convince the court that they neither had actual nor constructive possession of the marijuana.
For example, if the police find marijuana in a shared residence, such as an apartment or a college dormitory, the accused person could argue that he had no possession of the marijuana. If the defendant demonstrates that the marijuana belonged to someone else and the defense and he had no knowledge or control over its presence, he wins acquittal or a case dismissal.
Medical Use Defense
In Minnesota, medical marijuana use is legal for patients with qualifying conditions who are registered in the state’s medical cannabis program. Qualifying conditions include cancer, severe or chronic pain, and other serious conditions..
The medical use defense requires demonstrating that the defendant is a registered patient who is compliant with all the rules and regulations of Minnesota’s medical marijuana program.
For instance, suppose a registered cancer patient was found in possession of marijuana, and the police officer charges her with possession of marijuana. In court, the patient could argue the medical use defense.
The defense would present evidence of their registration in the medical marijuana program and their doctor’s certification that they have cancer with symptoms that qualify for the use of medical marijuana. If the defense can demonstrate that the defendant was using marijuana strictly within the confines of the state’s medical marijuana program, then the state’s case fails.
Chain of Custody Defense
The chain of custody defense in a marijuana possession case challenges the way the evidence was handled from the time it was seized to the time it was presented in court.
In legal terms, the “chain of custody” refers to the documented process that traces the movement, handling, and location of evidence. It is meant to verify the integrity of the evidence, ensuring that it has not been tampered with, altered, or replaced. If the chain of custody is broken, it means the evidence may have been compromised, and it can be dismissed, likely destroying a marijuana possession case.
For example, suppose a person is charged with possession of marijuana. In court, their defense attorney may request records showing the chain of custody for the seized marijuana. If there are discrepancies in these records, like missing documentation for a period of time, or if the marijuana was not stored or transported according to required protocols, the defense attorney could argue that the evidence was potentially tampered with or mishandled.
If the court agrees that the chain of custody was broken, the marijuana evidence may be excluded, which could lead to the charges being dropped or a not guilty verdict.
Navigating Marijuana charges in Minneapolis can be a complex process, given the myriad of factors that come into play and the changing landscape of marijuana laws. Understanding your legal rights and potential defenses is crucial to beating the case. Legal professionals, like those at Gerald Miller, P.A., are well-versed in Minnesota’s marijuana laws and can provide invaluable assistance. Act now.
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