Under federal law, marijuana possession remains a criminal offense. Several states throughout the nation, however, have legalized both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. In Florida, some medical patients can use marijuana to help them cope with a debilitating condition, while those who wish to use marijuana recreationally can still find themselves in trouble with the law. Just how much trouble they get themselves into all depends on exactly where they are caught, and by whom.
South Florida Counties Pass Citation Ordinances
Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties all approved ordinances that allow law enforcement personnel to issue civil citations to marijuana users caught with fewer than 20 grams of the drug in their possession. A civil citation for marijuana is just like a traffic ticket in which an officer fines a user between $75 and $100 for smoking or possessing fewer than 20 grams of weed. Simply because the ordinance passed doesn’t mean that marijuana users are off the hook; in one of these counties, law enforcement agencies actively ignore the law and continue pursuing criminal charges against marijuana users.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw tenaciously refuses to issue civil citations for recreational marijuana use despite the fact that Palm Beach County Commissioners approved the measure in 2015. He is the only sheriff in the region to publicly denounce the ordinance and state that his office will not participate in it.
Mr. Bradshaw believes that charging marijuana offenders criminally will help them access drug abuse counseling, whereas issuing a citation will do nothing to incentivize a marijuana user to quit. Although most first-time marijuana offenders can have their arrest wiped from their record, a marijuana arrest could result in worse consequences for a person who has previously offended.
In Palm Beach County, a person who is arrested for marijuana could spend time in jail and lose his driving privilege for two years for a criminal marijuana charge. He may avoid consequences by agreeing to drug counseling and investing in a criminal defense lawyer, which could cost several times more than a ticket to resolve a misdemeanor offense like simple marijuana possession. He would also have to take time away from his schedule to show up in court.
South Florida Cities Can Waive Marijuana Ordinance
Although all three counties that complete South Florida have passed ordinances allowing local police to issue civil citations instead of arrests, individual cities have the option to opt out of participation. Fort Lauderdale is one city in Broward County that has chosen to do so. Deputy County Administrator Jon Van Arnam of Palm Beach County stated in an email to the Sun Sentinel that Palm Beach County will develop procedures for marijuana citations in case a change in policy takes place.
Facing charges for a misdemeanor offense in Palm Beach County can take a significant toll on your life and your future. Contact attorney Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel to discover how a drug defense lawyer in West Palm Beach can help you overcome the legal obstacles that lie ahead of you. Call 561-622-5575 or contact us to set up a free case review.