Last year, pop star Justin Bieber’s private plane from Canada was searched by federal authorities after landing in New Jersey on suspicion that marijuana was on board. Drug-sniffing dogs searched the plane while Bieber was interviewed by federal agents. A few hours later, he was released with no charges filed. If marijuana were found on board, Bieber could have faced federal marijuana charges for possession of the drug.
How Possession of Marijuana Can Become a Federal Charge
If you are arrested by state law enforcement, state laws would apply to your case. However, if you are arrested by a federal law enforcement agency such as the F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Administration) or the National Park Service, you likely will be prosecuted for a federal marijuana offense.
What are the Federal Marijuana Charge Penalties?
According to federal law, possession of any amount of marijuana constitutes a possession of marijuana charge. You will be charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office under U.S. Code 21 Section 844 and your case will go to the nearest federal court.
Under U.S. Code 21 Section 844, a federal possession of marijuana conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. A second conviction is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. A third conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
When possession is tied to the sale or cultivation of marijuana or other criminal enterprises (such as possession with intent to distribute), federal penalties are much harsher and are categorized as felonies. If this occurs, you may face federal marijuana charges.
What is the Difference between a Federal and State Possession of Marijuana Conviction?
If you are found guilty of a federal crime, the punishment is typically more severe than state punishments. In California, marijuana laws have been decriminalized in recent years.
Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11357, possession of 28.5 grams or less of 1arijuana is an infraction that is punishable by a fine of up to $100. The offense is essentially reduced to the level of a traffic ticket, where no criminal record will result.
Some convictions for possession of marijuana can be expunged under California law, clearing the conviction from your criminal record. However, if you were convicted of federal marijuana charges, you cannot expunge the conviction from your record. There is no expungement process under federal law. The only way to remove a federal criminal conviction from your record would be to obtain a presidential pardon.
What if I was in Possession of Medical Marijuana?
The federal government does not recognize the use of medical marijuana. Possession of marijuana (medical or otherwise) is in violation of federal law. You can be convicted of federal marijuana charges whether it is for recreational or medical use.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is facing a federal possession of marijuana charge, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 40 years of experience in handling federal and state marijuana offenses in Southern California. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you are located.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.