Maryland legislators consider downgrading drug offenses

Maryland legislators consider downgrading drug offenses

A group of Maryland lawmakers is fighting for residents who have been charged
with criminal offenses for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The
change would downgrade certain types of
drug offenses out of the criminal realm, instead relegating them to the civil courts.
Instead of facing criminal charges, the violators would face punishment
akin to a parking ticket. These changes come at a time that another cadre
of legislators is pushing for marijuana legalization in the state.

In addition to lowering the penalty for such drug crimes, the proposed
measure would allow convicts to expunge previous convictions for certain
types of drug crimes. In other words, the drug offenses that are transformed
into civil matters for new defendants would also be wiped off of convicts’
criminal records. Supporters say that particular provision would have
a significant positive impact, opening career paths and other opportunities
for those who have been struggling with their old drug convictions.

Cases such as that of the Maryland woman who was pursuing her master’s
degree in education spring to mind. That woman was arrested after officers
found a minute amount of marijuana in her car; the drug had been hidden
in her passenger’s purse. Even though the woman was never convicted,
an arrest record still existed, and her teaching career was effectively
terminated. She could not even volunteer within Baltimore schools.

Defendants who have faced minor drug possession arrests should not have
to pay for the rest of their lives for one indiscretion. In the previous
case, the woman’s passenger was the one with the drugs — she
just happened to be in the defendant’s vehicle. A Maryland criminal
defense attorney may be able to help defendants facing drug offenses learn
more about their legal rights and options, even as legislators consider
codifying leniency.

Source: Bowie Patch, “Marijuana Bill Would Clean Slate for Some Past
Offenders” Megan Brockett, Capital News Service, Mar. 15, 2014