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Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in 2 Virginia courthouses

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Apr 23, 2019 Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in 2 Virginia courthouses

Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in 2 Virginia courthouses

Dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in 2 Virginia courthouses

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 here and here 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. 

1 Comment
  • Raven Blackbane
    Posted at 01:16h, 05 May Reply

    Praise be to “Hemp Flower” because now the ubiquitous “I smell marijuana” claim for a warrantless search will now be as effective as “I smell tobacco”; a no go to find everything but marijuana (i.e., Schedule I and II drugs), after all, “I smell pills” doesn’t sound like it will work to well. Expect massive drops of Schedule I and II charges from the “smell” claims but expect a massive increase in “I see cocaine” from all the confectioners sugar off their donuts.

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