Author: Craig Mayton
University students and party-goers in general are sometimes charged with possession of marijuana. This is often based on the fact that they have a joint or small baggie of marijuana in their possession at a concert, party, or in the car when stopped by the police. Under R.C. 2925.11(C)(3)(a), possession of marijuana in an amount of 100 grams or less is a minor misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a minor misdemeanor under R.C. 2929.28(A)(2)(a) is a fine of $150. No jail sentence can be imposed. Because of this, people charged with possession 100 grams or less of marijuana often think they can go to court, plead guilty, pay a fine and be done with it. This is not necessarily a good idea.
Revised Code 2925.11(E)(2) also provides that if a person is convicted of any drug offense, including a minor misdemeanor marijuana charge, “… [t]he court shall suspend for not less than six months or more than five years the offender’s driver’s or commercial driver’s license or permit.” This means that the Court has no choice but to suspend your driver’s license for a minimum of six months if you plead guilty to a minor misdemeanor marijuana offense.
A lawyer can typically avoid this problem by entering into a plea bargain on your behalf. Specifically, assuming there are no other defenses that might result in the dismissal of your case, a criminal defense attorney can usually convince the Prosecutor to accept a bond forfeiture in lieu of a plea. A bond forfeiture is a legal fiction by which the defendant posts a set amount of money (often $150) with the Clerk of Court which the Court orders forfeited and terminates the case with no further consequences. This is not a conviction for purposes of R.C. 2925.11(E)(2) and the Court will not impose the driver’s rights suspension otherwise called for by that statute.
If you are charged with minor misdemeanor possession of marijuana and you value your driver’s license, please keep this information in mind and consider consulting a lawyer with experience in criminal law.