Sometimes attorneys become embroiled with their clients’ legal troubles in unusual ways, which was recently the case for San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh. While assisting another client with a traffic offence, an elderly woman approached attorney McElfresh after a strange court appearance involving her 22-year-old grandson and medical marijuana charges. Allegedly, the young man, who was employed as a grocery clerk was approached by police and found in possession of a small amount of marijuana. He produced a doctor’s recommendation for the medical marijuana, which is allowable in California; however, the officer confiscated the marijuana and issued a citation.
The young man appeared in court without legal representation, believing the medical recommendation should have been taken into account. He tried to explain the circumstances, but the judge conveyed that the purpose of his appearance was to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty and his medical documentation would not be recognized. Without legal counsel, the man became confused and entered a plea of guilty thinking that his medical recommendation would not be acknowledged.
When Jessica McElfresh heard how the events transpired, she was concerned because she felt the judge misstated the legitimacy of the recommendation. As a result, she decided to represent the young man and requested that the judge allow her client to withdraw his guilty plea based on not having a clear understanding of the instructions and possible ramifications. The judge felt his instructions were clear, but allowed attorney McElfresh to file a motion on her client’s behalf. Ultimately, she filed the motion, describing the judge’s misinterpretation of the law surrounding medical recommendations. A different judge heard the motion, who agreed with the validity of the recommendation; therefore, the guilty plea was withdrawn and the charge was dismissed. Using well-informed legal experience our client was spared the consequences of a conviction.
The outcome of an individual case depends on a variety of factors unique to that case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any similar or future case.