In recent years there has been a concerted effort across the United States to legalize the medicinal, and in some states, recreational, use of marijuana. In many states those efforts have been successful. The State of Nebraska, however, is not among the states that have changed their marijuana laws. Nonetheless, possession of a small amount of marijuana is charged as a misdemeanor, meaning you face less serious penalties if convicted. With that in mind, you might be left wondering if hiring a criminal lawyer is really necessary for a misdemeanor possession charge. Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not you hire an attorney. However, there are several reasons why it is in your best interest to do so.
Nebraska’s Possession of Marijuana Laws
Like many states, Nebraska treats criminal offenses involving marijuana differently than those involving other controlled substances. The reason is that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it is classified in the same category as Heroin, LSD, and “Ecstasy.” Recognizing that marijuana really should be treated differently than other Schedule I controlled substances, many states treat marijuana differently in their criminal statutes. Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-416 is where offenses involving the possession of marijuana can be located. The relevant portion reads 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.
Why Should You Hire a Criminal Lawyer for a Possession Charge?
As you can see by reading through the relevant statute, you can be found in possession of up to a pound of marijuana and still only be charged with a misdemeanor. Like many people, you may look at a misdemeanor as being “not a big deal.” You may assume you aren’t really facing any jail time and that probation is not something to worry about so why bother with an attorney? What you may not be thinking about, however, are some of the following reasons why you still need the assistance of an experienced attorney:
- Prospective employers routinely do backgrounds checks and any conviction could prevent you from being hired.
- The terms of probation are often negotiable. Why spend more time on probation or be saddled with more special conditions than necessary?
- Probation sounds easy, but in reality, a significant percentage of probationers violate and end up in jail.
- Law enforcement officers often pressure defendants to “give up” the dealer in exchange for a dismissal of charges or a lighter sentence. Do not try and negotiate this without an attorney on your side.
- You could actually have a valid defense which would result in a dismissal or not guilty verdict! For example, the police might have conducted an illegal search.
If you have been charged with possession of marijuana in the State of Nebraska, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal lawyer right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.