Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in 2 Virginia courthouses
Virginia criminal attorney/ DUI lawyer for Fairfax County, Arlington County & Beyond
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Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana possession cases should be the new trend in Virginia
Dismissing or not prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases is now the policy of the chief prosecutors in Portsmouth (except for likely still prosecuting juveniles for possessing marijuana) and Norfolk Virginia. As a Fairfax drug lawyer and civil libertarian, I applaud this move and encourage a cannabis non-prosecution trend throughout the commonwealth.
The Portsmouth, Virginia, chief prosecutor has asked to dismiss all misdemeanor marijuana possession charges with payment of court costs
Portsmouth City Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales on April 8, 2019, sent the General District Court judges a letter moving to dismiss all misdemeanor marijuana possession charges with payment of court costs.
My preference would be for these cases to be dismissed without having to pay court costs. Criminal defendants are initially presumed innocent, and should not be saddled with court costs without an adjudication if the chief prosecutor simply wants such cases dismissed. Some people do not have the money to pay for court costs. Sometimes payment of court costs might be misinterpreted by potential employers and other key decisionmakers as a suspended imposition of sentence or 251 disposition, both of which first require a finding of facts sufficient to prove guilt.
The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office does not handle misdemeanor marijuana possession cases
By letter dated March 1, 2019, to the Circuit Court judges, Gregory Underwood stated that his office will not prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases appealed from the District Court (where his office has not been prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, either). At the Circuit Court level, the Norfolk prosecutors will move for such cases to be dismissed.
Racial disparities and drains on scarce government resources justify dismissing marijuana cases
While it appears that the police in the above-two jurisdictions continue to regularly charge people with marijuana offenses, the chief prosecutors are exercising appropriate prosecutorial discretion in generally not prosecuting marijuana cases. despite the Norfolk Circuit Court judges’ refusal to dismiss such cases on the prosecutors’ motion.
Data shows hugely disproportionate prosecution of non-white marijuana defendants statewide in Virginia, which has a shameful Jim Crow history.
Additionally, the money, police and government resources spent on marijuana prosecutions are better spent on more urgent governmental and prosecutorial priorities.
Fairfax drug lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against drug, marijuana, DUI, felony & misdemeanor prosecutions. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.