In late 2010, the State of California made possession of less than one ounce, or 28.5 grams, of marijuana an infraction punishable by a $100.00 fine for people over the age of 18 years, codified as Health and Safety Code section 11357, subdivision (b). California made the same change to Vehicle Code section 23222, subdivision (b), which punishes possession of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle. This change, though needed and justly celebrated, was not as simple, nor quite the freedom from punishment, as it seems at first glance.
If you are over the age of 21 and cited for the infraction, yes – you face the maximum penalty of $100.00 plus court costs and penalty assessments if convicted. Unfortunately, those costs and penalty assessments bring the overall costs of the ticket closer to $500.00.
For those over the age of 18 but under 21, a citation for possession of marijuana under Health and Safety Code section 11357, subdivision (b), or Vehicle Code section 23222, subdivision (b), can bring a license suspension of one year. Yes, that’s right, you can have your license suspended for an entire year for an infraction just for having a small amount of marijuana, if you are under the age of 21 but legally an adult. The authority for this lies in Vehicle Code section 13202.5.
If you receive a citation for possession of marijuana, you may have defenses available to you. These include your status currently or in the past as a qualified patient with a recommendation from a licensed California physician for the use of medical marijuana, the marijuana was discovered during an illegal search, seizure, or detention, you did not actually possess the marijuana, and more. Even if you have no defense, you should still consider contacting a San Diego marijuana attorney, particularly if you are under the age 21. A qualified San Diego marijuana attorney may be able to negotiate a plea to another infraction charge that will not lead to a license suspension, or get you a dismissal through Penal Code section 1000 (drug diversion) or through another agreement.
At McElfresh Law, Inc., we have had great success in avoiding conviction and license suspensions for those who have received a citation for possession of marijuana under Health and Safety Code section 11357, subdivision (b), or Vehicle Code section 23222, subdivision (b). If you have received such a citation, contact us today to discuss your options in a free legal consultation.