In states like Colorado and Washington,
weed is legal. But here in Austin, Texas, it’s still against the law to possess marijuana, however unfair it may seem.
Most people think that weed is weed, whether it’s a joint or a gummy bear. But they have VERY different consequences. A joint is a misdemeanor, which means the police officer has the option to write you a ticket instead of taking you to jail. But getting caught with a gummy bear is a felony, which means the police officer has no choice but to take you to jail. And the charge won’t be called Possession of a Gummy Bear, it’ll be called Possession of a Controlled Substance, which is the same charge as if you got caught with cocaine or crystal meth. So if your college or employer catches wind of it, they’ll kick you out or fire you.
One common place where people smoke weed is at concerts like Austin City Limits or South by Southwest. And you would think that police would be more lenient at festivals where people are there to have a good time, but you have to remember that their job is to enforce the law and to shut down the party.
A Possession of Marijuana Charge Avoids a Mugshot
For a Possession of Marijuana Charge, if the police officer writes you a ticket (called a cite and release), the Travis County Justice of the Peace Precinct 5 Court has a mechanism where you can avoid a mugshot altogether. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to take advantage of this benefit to save your job or your education.
With a Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge, unfortunately, you don’t have this benefit. Since the police officer must take you to jail, once you’re booked, they must take your fingerprints and get your mugshot.
After you get your mugshot taken, the Austin Police Department posts your mugshot online for anyone to see, including for-profit online background check companies that will make you pay to get them taken off.
A Possession of Marijuana Charge Can Get Dismissed
For most of my clients, I can get their Possession of Marijuana Charge dismissed one way or another. Of course I cannot guarantee this to every client because this is against our ethical rules as attorneys. But the prosecutors (the lawyers working for the State) have a lot of flexibility on who to give second chances to, and we can frame you as a strong candidate on getting a second chance.
In contrast, felonies are treated much more seriously than misdemeanors. Misdemeanor prosecutors are used to dealing with bar fights, DWI’s, and marijuana charges. While felony prosecutors are used to dealing with drug dealers, murders, and cocaine charges. A Possession of a Controlled Substance is a State Jail Felony, which is the same category as harder drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. And the punishment range for Possession of a Controlled Substance is 180 days minimum to 2 years in jail. To put it into perspective, the minimum for a Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge is the maximum for a Possession of Marijuana Charge, which has a minimum of 0 days in jail.
A Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge Can Get Dismissed Too
Because we know this is the reality of the law, we try to work with the prosecutors to keep you out of jail. One way we do this is to reduce your Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge to an Attempted Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge. The legal effect of this is reducing the charge from a State Jail Felony to a Class A Misdemeanor. Misdemeanors have no minimum punishment range, and a maximum of 1 year in jail or probation. Getting the prosecutors to agree to see the offense as a misdemeanor instead of a felony is a big step towards getting your case dismissed because a Possession of Marijuana is also a misdemeanor, and those get dismissed a lot easier than a felony can. Although it is harder to get the prosecutors to give you a second chance on Possession of a Controlled Substance Charges, it is possible with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
A Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge Can Get Expunged Too
If you are fortunate enough to get your Possession of a Controlled Substance Charge dismissed, the law lets you expunge your charge from the court records 3 years from the date of dismissal. Many times, an experienced criminal defense attorney in your city can get your charge expunged faster than 3 years.
Want to know the best part? If you get your charge expunged, your future employers or college will never know because you’ll have no criminal record at all.