In recent years, there has been a well-organized effort across the United States to re-legalize marijuana, either for medicinal use and/or recreational use. Not only has the campaign been well organized, it has also been amazingly successful. As of 2016, almost half of U.S. states — 24 states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) – have made marijuana legal, either for medicinal and/or personal use. The State of Nebraska is not one of the states which has decriminalized marijuana. If you were caught with a small amount of marijuana in Nebraska, you may be wondering if you need a defense attorney. Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not to retain the services of an attorney. However, it may be helpful in making that decision to understand the various penalties and consequences you could face if convicted.
Nebraska Marijuana Laws
As is the case at the federal level, and in most other states, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance in Nebraska. Nebraska, however, treats marijuana differently than other controlled substances by providing lesser penalties for possession of smaller amounts that likely represent personal use rather than an intent to distribute. Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416 governs the possession of a controlled substance, including marijuana, stating as follows:
(11) Any person knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana weighing more than one ounce but not more than one pound shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.
(12) Any person knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana weighing more than one pound shall be guilty of a Class IV felony.
(13) Any person knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana weighing one ounce or less or any substance containing a quantifiable amount of the substances, chemicals, or compounds described, defined, or delineated in subdivision (c)(25) of Schedule I of section 28-405 shall:
(a) For the first offense, be guilty of an infraction, receive a citation, be fined three hundred dollars, and be assigned to attend a course as prescribed in section 29-433 if the judge determines that attending such course is in the best interest of the individual defendant;
(b) For the second offense, be guilty of a Class IV misdemeanor, receive a citation, and be fined four hundred dollars and may be imprisoned not to exceed five days; and
(c) For the third and all subsequent offenses, be guilty of a Class IIIA misdemeanor, receive a citation, be fined five hundred dollars, and be imprisoned not to exceed seven days.
(14) Any person convicted of violating this section, if placed on probation, shall, as a condition of probation, satisfactorily attend and complete appropriate treatment and counseling on drug abuse provided by a program authorized under the Nebraska Behavioral Health Services Act or other licensed drug treatment facility.
While the definition of a “small amount” will undoubtedly vary, Nebraska does not make possession of marijuana a felony unless the amount in question is over one pound. Possession of an amount less than one ounce will only result in a citation and monetary fine while possession of an amount over an ounce but less than a pound carries with it up to three months in jail as a Class III misdemeanor.
Is a Defense Attorney Necessary?
While Nebraska has yet to legalize possession of marijuana, the lenient penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use are indicative of the rapidly changing views on marijuana. This may lead you to believe that a defense attorney is not warranted. However, you may wish to consider the non-judicial consequences of a conviction before making the decision to forego counsel. For example, a conviction for possession of marijuana in any amount could result in:
Loss of current and/or future employment opportunities
Loss of your driving privileges
Disqualification for state and/or federal assistance programs
Negatively impact your visitation rights with minor children
Disciplinary action if you hold a professional license or degree
If you are concerned about the potential penalties – judicial and otherwise – that may stem from a conviction for possession of marijuana, you may wish to consult an experienced defense attorney about your legal options.
If you were caught with a small amount of marijuana in Nebraska, you may wish to consult with an experienced Nebraska defense lawyer right away. In Nebraska, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced marijuana defense attorney.