Many people do not realize it, but marijuana was legal throughout the United States until the early part of the 20th century. At that time, a campaign was waged against marijuana that ultimately ended in marijuana being classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no known medicinal value and a high risk of abuse or addiction. For the latter half of the 20th century, marijuana remained illegal at both the state and federal level in the U.S. In recent years, however, a new campaign has been extremely successful at re-legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use in over half of the states. Nebraska, however, is not one of those states. Given that marijuana remains illegal in Nebraska, what happens if you get busted with marijuana in Nebraska?
Marijuana Remains Illegal in Nebraska
First, and foremost, it is important to stress that marijuana remains classified as a controlled substance on Nebraska’s counterpart to the U.S. Controlled Substance Schedule. Furthermore, the possession, sale, cultivation, or transportation of marijuana remains illegal in Nebraska.
Steps that Will Likely Follow and Arrest for Marijuana
Although no two arrests or prosecutions are exactly the same, there are some common steps that will likely occur, including:
- Initial arrest. A marijuana related arrest can occur under a wide variety of circumstances; however, they tend to fall into one of two categories – traffic stop or investigation. A law enforcement officer may luck into making a marijuana arrest after conducting a traffic stop and either smelling marijuana in the vehicle or becoming suspicious about the driver. If the officer becomes suspicious, a drug sniffing K-9 unit may be called to the scene to conduct a drug “sniff” search. The other route to an arrest almost always involves large quantities of marijuana. The police may conduct an undercover operation to find out when large quantities of marijuana are being transported through the state or are being cultivated in the state.
- Booking and bond. After the decision to make an arrest has been made, you will be taken to the jail for processing. If you have never been through this process before, it is not fun. In fact, it is usually humiliating as you will be required to take off your clothes and submit to a search, after which you must put on jail clothing. A bon amount will be set for your release at this point. Typically, a loved one can pay the entire bond in cash, in which case it will be refunded at the end of your case as long as you make all your court appearances or pay a percentage of the bond amount to a bail bondsman who will keep that percentage as his/her fee. Either way, if your bond is satisfied, you will be released from custody and allowed to remain out of custody while your case is pending as long as you abide by the terms of your release. If you cannot make bond, you will remain in custody until your case is finished.
- Initial hearing/arraignment. Your initial hearing is usually set within a couple days of your arrest. At the hearing, the judge will make sure you understand the charges against you, read you your rights, and enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. If you do not yet have an attorney to represent you, the court will likely ask you about your plans to hire one as well. Once an attorney has been retained, the issue of bind may be revisited if you remain in custody.
- In a criminal prosecution, the term “discovery” refers to the state’s obligation to turn over evidence to your defense attorney that it plans to use at trial. Tis gives your attorney some idea of the strength of the state’s case against you.
- Plea agreement offered. The prosecuting attorney will likely offer you a plea agreement at some point during your case. You are never required to enter into a plea agreement and you can only do so if you are prepared to admit that you are guilty. Your defense attorney should negotiate the terms of a plea agreement to get the most favorable terms possible if you are willing to enter into a plea agreement.
- Motions filed and argued. Pre-trial motions may be filed in your case, such as a motion to suppress evidence if your attorney believes that the police conducted an illegal search and seizure. These issues are typically litigated prior to trial.
- Decision time. Although you should always listen to your attorney’s advice, the ultimate decision for how to resolve your case lies with you. Do you wish to take your case to trial or accept a plea agreement?
- Plea agreement accepted. If you decide to go the plea agreement route, a court date will be scheduled for you to appear before the judge. At that time, the judge will try to ensure that you understand the terms of the agreement and that you accept the terms. Depending on those terms, and on the severity level of the charges for which you are pleading guilty, the court may proceed directly to sentencing that day or set your case out for sentencing in a week or two.
- If you decide to allow a judge or jury to decide your fate, your case will be scheduled for a trial. If the judge or jury convicts you, you will proceed to sentencing.
If you have been charged with a marijuana related criminal offense in the State of Nebraska it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to discuss what defenses might be available to you. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070.