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Marijuana Possession Charges in Minnesota: What You Should Do Next

Navigating the legal process and building a strong defense against Marijuana possession charges in Minnesota requires careful consideration and strategic planning. Consulting with an experienced defense attorney, understanding the Minnesota marijuana laws, and creating impactful defense strategies are crucial steps to protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome.

Whether it’s challenging an unlawful search and seizure, asserting a lack of possession, presenting a medical use defense, or questioning the chain of custody, each defense strategy requires careful analysis of the specific facts of your case.

But what should you do when you are facing these charges? In the paragraphs below, we discuss the best ways to respond to a marijuana possession charge.

Ask For a Lawyer

Consulting a lawyer before answering questions or making a statement after being arrested is of utmost importance to protect your legal rights and ensure a fair legal process. One crucial aspect to consider in this context is the concept of Miranda rights.

Miranda rights stem from the landmark Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. These rights  protect individuals from self-incrimination during custodial interrogations. When a person is arrested and in police custody, law enforcement officers must inform them of their Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during questioning.

Note that law enforcement has no obligation to advise you of your Miranda rights until you have been placed in custody. This is the reason why police officers in television shows are so often depicted reading the suspect his Miranda rights as they put on the handcuffs.

As a result of this policy, prior to placing you under arrest, law enforcement can ask you questions without advising you of your right to remain silent. However, this right always exists. Accordingly, you never have to talk to law enforcement, and your decision to remain silent can never be used against you in court.

Failing to exercise the right to remain silent and consult with a lawyer can have serious negative consequences. Without legal guidance, individuals may inadvertently say something that could be used against them later in court. Their statements could be taken out of context, misinterpreted, or fabricated.

As a hypothetical, suppose a person is arrested for marijuana possession. During the custodial interrogation, the suspect answers questions without consulting a lawyer and inadvertently admits to selling marijuana in addition to possession. This additional statement of involvement in drug distribution can result in enhanced charges and harsher penalties.

On the other hand, consulting a lawyer before answering questions or making statements after being arrested can have a positive effect. Legal counsel provides essential guidance on how to navigate the legal process and protect your rights.

For example, suppose a person is arrested for possessing marijuana located in an apartment he shares with several roommates. He wisely consults with a lawyer before making any statements to law enforcement. The lawyer advises the suspect to exercise his right to remain silent. As a result, the individual refrains from making any incriminating statements. The police lack proof that the marijuana was his and have no suspect statements to use as evidence. As a result, the charges are dropped.

Consulting a lawyer also allows individuals to understand the charges they are facing, the potential consequences, and the available legal defenses. A knowledgeable attorney evaluates the strength of the prosecution’s case, assesses the admissibility of evidence, and guides the accused through the legal process, including plea negotiations and trial preparation.

To further explore the importance of consulting a lawyer and understanding your rights, refer to the official U.S. Department of Justice resource on Miranda warnings.

Establish a Defense

Establishing a strong defense against a marijuana possession charge in Minnesota is crucial to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. Here’s a guide on how to build a defense, along with an example of a strong defense strategy:

Understand Minnesota Marijuana Laws

Start by familiarizing yourself with the specific marijuana possession laws in Minnesota. Review the relevant statutes and understand the elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Consult an Experienced Defense Attorney

Seek the advice of an experienced defense attorney who specializes in drug charges. He will walk you through the legal process, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s case, and devise strategic defense options.

Challenge Unlawful Search and Seizure

One effective defense strategy consists of challenging the legality of the search and seizure that led to the discovery of marijuana. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement violated your constitutional rights, the evidence obtained through the illegal search is inadmissible. Consult with your attorney to determine if this defense applies to your case.

For example, imagine a situation where law enforcement officers conducted a search of your vehicle without a valid warrant or probable cause. If your attorney convinced the court that the search violated your Fourth Amendment rights, the marijuana found during the search must be excluded, significantly weakening the prosecution’s case.

Lack of Possession

Lack of possession provides another effective defense. The prosecution must prove that you knowingly had control or dominion over the marijuana. If you demonstrate that you were unaware of the marijuana’s presence or lacked ownership or control, you establish reasonable doubt.

Let’s consider a scenario where marijuana is found in a shared living space or vehicle. If you can establish that the marijuana belonged to someone else or that you lacked knowledge or control over it, you can argue a lack of possession.

Medical Use Defense

Minnesota allows the use of medical marijuana under certain circumstances. If you have a valid medical marijuana card and were using marijuana for a qualifying medical condition, you have a medical use defense. Consult with your attorney to determine if this defense is applicable to your case..

Chain of Custody Defense

The chain of custody defense involves raising doubt as to whether the evidence was appropriately handled between the arrest and its presentation in court. To prevent tampered evidence from being introduced in court, the law requires the state to document its chain of custody and secure the evidence against alteration.

Any gaps or inconsistencies in the chain of custody raise doubts about the integrity and reliability of the evidence. Your attorney can investigate the handling, storage, and documentation of the marijuana to identify flaws in the chain of custody.

For example, if the evidence was mishandled, or improperly stored, or if there are gaps in the chain of custody record, your attorney can argue that the evidence may have been tampered with or contaminated, rendering it inadmissible.

Expert Testimony

Depending on the circumstances of your case, expert testimony can be instrumental in establishing a defense. Experts, such as forensic chemists or medical professionals, can provide scientific or medical analysis to challenge the prosecution’s evidence or support your defense. Your attorney can help identify qualified experts and present their testimony in court.

For further information on marijuana possession laws in Minnesota, you can refer to the Minnesota Marijuana Laws guide provided by the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Plea Bargaining

Negotiating a plea bargain is a wise option in many Minnesota marijuana possession cases. A plea bargain involves reaching an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty to a lesser charge or accept a favorable sentencing recommendation in exchange for a reduced sentence or other concessions.

Here’s an overview of the process and potential benefits:

  1. Assessing the Case: Your defense attorney evaluates the strength of the prosecution’s case, considering factors such as the quantity of marijuana, aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and your criminal history. This assessment helps determine whether pursuing a plea bargain is in your best interest.
  2. Initial Negotiations: Your attorney engages in negotiations with the prosecution, discussing potential plea options. The goal is to find common ground that balances your interests and the prosecution’s objectives.
  3. Reduced Charges: In some cases, the prosecution may agree to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor or lower-level offense. This can result in lesser penalties, such as reduced fines, probation instead of jail time, or a less damaging criminal record.
  4. Sentence Reduction: Even if the charges remain the same, a plea bargain can lead to a reduced sentence. The prosecution may recommend a lenient sentence in exchange for your guilty plea, which the judge considers during sentencing.
  5. Avoiding Harsher Penalties: By accepting a plea bargain, you can potentially avoid more severe penalties associated with a conviction after trial. This may include mandatory minimum sentences, longer periods of probation, or more significant fines.
  6. Efficiency and Certainty: Plea bargains can save time and resources by avoiding a lengthy trial process. They offer certainty about the outcome since the negotiated terms are agreed upon in advance.

Negotiating a plea bargain requires skillful advocacy and a deep understanding of the legal landscape. It’s crucial to have an experienced defense attorney, like Gerald Miller, P.A., who can effectively advocate for your interests and guide you through the negotiation process.

Go to Trial

In Minnesota, Marijuana possession charges involve several stages. Jury selection comes first. The judge, prosecution, and defense attorneys choose a panel they believe can fairly and impartially decide your case. Opening statements follow, where both sides outline their cases and the evidence they plan to present. The presentation of evidence involves the prosecution presenting its case, followed by the defense’s presentation and cross-examination of witnesses.

Closing arguments are made by both sides, summarizing their cases. The jury then deliberates in private to reach a unanimous verdict. When the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, the court must declare a mistrial. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge determines the appropriate sentence based on various factors, such as the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history.

Talk to an Attorney About Marijuana Possession Charges

In the face of marijuana possession charges in Minnesota, it is crucial to understand your legal options and secure strong representation.  Gerald Miller, P.A. provides invaluable guidance and advocacy throughout the legal process. Don’t hesitate to take action and contact Gerald Miller, P.A. for a consultation.

Related Content: Possession of Controlled Substance Laws and Penalties 

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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