Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis: Understanding Your Legal Options
Facing felony marijuana charges in Minneapolis puts you at risk of spending time in state prison and living the rest of your life as a convicted felon. But charges and convictions are two separate matters. The state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. For a variety of reasons, it often fails.
The most important thing to do after a marijuana arrest is to contact a criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on whether you should answer questions or assert your 5th Amendment rights, what defenses you have, and whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial.
There are many legal options that can help you avoid a felony conviction. Depending on the circumstances of your case, one or a combination of the following options may work for you.
Filing a Pre-Trial Motion to Exclude Evidence in Minneapolis
Filing a pre-trial motion to exclude evidence is a strategic legal move that aims to prevent doubtful evidence from being presented at trial. Defense lawyers file these motions when they believe that law enforcement obtained evidence unlawfully or if there were errors in the handling and storage of the evidence.
Consider a case where marijuana was discovered during an unlawful search and seizure. If a police officer searched a person’s vehicle during a routine traffic stop without probable cause and found marijuana, the defense could argue that the search was unlawful and violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
In this hypothetical, the defense attorney would file a motion to exclude the marijuana evidence on the basis that it was obtained illegally. The defense lawyer would argue the officer had no probable cause, while the prosecutor will try to justify the search, such as by claiming it was consensual or the officer has a reason to believe a crime was taking place. The judge then rules whether the search was lawful. If the court deems the search illegal, all evidence found as a result is excluded.
Another basis for a motion to exclude evidence involves the chain of custody defense. The chain of custody refers to the process of documenting the handling of the evidence from the moment it is seized until it is presented in court. If there were issues with how the marijuana evidence was stored, handled, or documented, the defense could file a pre-trial motion to exclude it based on these chain of custody issues.
For example, if there was a period where the evidence was unaccounted for, or if the marijuana was not stored according to proper protocols, the defense lawyer would argue that the chain of custody was broken and the evidence may have been compromised. The prosecutor would then have to demonstrate that the chain of custody was maintained. The judge’s decision will be based on the strength of the arguments presented by both sides.
These pre-trial motions can be pivotal in a marijuana possession case. If the motion is successful and the evidence is excluded, it can greatly weaken the prosecution’s case, potentially leading to the charges being dropped or a not-guilty verdict
Filing a Pre-Trial Motion to Dismiss in Minneapolis
The defense files a pre-trial motion to dismiss when it believes that, even if all the facts alleged by the prosecution are true, no legal basis exists for a trial to proceed. This can occur in a marijuana possession case when a motion to exclude evidence based on unlawful search and seizure has been successful.
For example, let’s say that during a routine traffic stop, an officer conducted a vehicle search without consent or probable cause and found marijuana. The defense attorney would file a pre-trial motion to exclude the marijuana evidence, arguing that it was obtained through an unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. If the judge agrees, the evidence would be excluded from the trial.
Once the evidence is excluded, the defense attorney could then file a pre-trial motion to dismiss the case. The basis for this motion is that without the evidence obtained from the unlawful search, the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to proceed. The judge, after considering the arguments of both parties, would then decide whether to grant the motion and dismiss the case. If granted, the case fails.
Striking a Plea Bargain With the Prosecution
Plea bargaining is a process where the defendant and the prosecution negotiate a compromise. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to one of several charges, in return for a lighter sentence or the dropping of more serious charges. It’s a common practice in the US justice system, including in cases of marijuana possession in Minnesota.
For example, let’s consider a defendant who is charged with a felony for possession of a large amount of marijuana but has a clean criminal record. In this scenario, the defense attorney could negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor, where the defendant agrees to plead guilty, but to a lesser charge, such as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. If the prosecutor agrees and the judge accepts the plea deal, the defendant faces more lenient penalties, like a smaller fine or probation instead of jail time.
This hypothetical agreement provides benefit to the defendant, as a misdemeanor conviction has fewer long-term consequences than a felony. A misdemeanor also has less impact on employment prospects, housing applications, and other areas where a felony conviction might pose significant obstacles.
However, plea bargaining can also benefit defendants who have aggravating factors. Suppose a defendant is charged with felony marijuana possession and has a prior conviction for the same offense, which qualifies as an aggravating factor that could lead to a longer sentence.
In this scenario, the defense attorney could negotiate a plea deal where the defendant pleads guilty to the possession charge in exchange for the prosecutor not seeking an enhanced sentence based on the aggravating factor. The prosecutor might agree to this deal to ensure a conviction without going to trial, especially if there are issues with the evidence.
Accepting a plea deal can provide several advantages for a defendant. Trials can be lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable, and a plea deal offers a degree of certainty about the outcome. Additionally, by pleading guilty, a defendant might be able to avoid some of the more severe consequences of a conviction.
However, it’s also essential to understand that a guilty plea results in a conviction that will be part of the defendant’s criminal record.
Going to Trial
The defendant may decide to demand a trial. This usually occurs when the state has a weak case or the prosecution refuses to plea bargain reasonably. If your case goes to trial, the following processes take place:
The judge, prosecution, and defense select the jury.
Both sides outline their cases. The prosecution goes first, followed by the defense. In some circumstances, the defense may opt not to present an opening statement.
Presentation of Evidence
The prosecution presents its case, then the defense. Each side can cross-examine the other’s witnesses.
If the state’s case is weak, the defense may choose to rest on the weakness of the case rather than present a defense. In other cases, a defense if vital in overcoming the state’s case.
Both sides summarize their cases and try to persuade the jury.
Jury Instructions and Deliberation
The judge explains the law relevant to the case. The jury then deliberates and delivers a verdict.
If the defendant is found guilty, the judge determines the sentence.
There are several defenses that could be effective in a felony marijuana possession trial, such as the following:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The defense could argue that the marijuana was found during a search that violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. If the judge agrees, the evidence could be suppressed, making an acquittal more likely.
Lack of Possession
The defense could argue that the defendant never possessed the marijuana. This might be the case if the marijuana was found in a shared space, and the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the marijuana belonged to the defendant.
In Minnesota, the use of medical marijuana is legal under certain circumstances. If the defendant can prove they were using the marijuana for medical purposes and they complied with the state’s medical marijuana laws, this could be a winning defense.
Chain of Custody
The defense could argue that there were issues with how the marijuana was handled and stored after it was seized. If the evidence was mishandled, the court must exclude it.
As a hypothetical example of how a defense might lead to an acquittal, consider a case where the defense successfully argues an unlawful search and seizure. If the judge agrees and suppresses the marijuana evidence, the prosecution’s case is be significantly weakened. Without key evidence, the jury might find the defendant not guilty.
In a trial, the court or the jury can acquit the defendant if it agrees a reasonable doubt exists. As a result, the defense counsel need not convince the judge or jury that the defendant is innocent. Instead, it must establish it as a reasonable possibility. For instance, if the defense, under cross-examination, shows reasons to doubt the chain of custody was followed, this could induce an acquittal.
Navigating a felony marijuana charge is a complex, multi-faceted process full of complexities. However, with a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney on your side, you can win or negotiate an attractive plea bargain. The outcome of your case is significantly influenced by how effectively you understand your legal options and exercise your rights.
Talk to an Attorney About Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis
Whether you’re facing your first marijuana possession charge or you’re dealing with aggravating factors that could lead to a harsher sentence, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. The team at Gerald Miller, P.A., with their expertise in Minnesota’s marijuana laws and extensive experience in criminal defense, is prepared to stand with you in your time of need.
Don’t let a marijuana charge damage your future. Take action today. Contact Gerald Miller, P.A. to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Remember, being charged is not the same as being convicted. Let us help you retain your freedom and preserve your future.
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