Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
How old is your son right now?
Do you have the actual statute number and section that he was caught for violating (it would be on his court summons) - ?
How much MJ was he caught with?
Is he still in school or working fulltime?
Hello again Juanita -
My suggestion is to see if he qualifies for a court appointed attorney (it is based upon his income) and to let the attorney speak with the prosecutor and then decide whether or not your son should speak to the judge directly. If your son speaks up and he does not have an attorney, then anything he says in the courtroom can be taken as an admission and can be used against him -- if not in this case then in another case at some point down the line if he has any further issues (which I hope he will not). You do not want what he might say to backfire on him with the judge and if he states that he has had issues with this for the past 4 years then she might consider him a longterm user and throw the max sentence at him (which is up to 5 years of jail time). WHen he appears for the arraignment he will talk to the prosecutor and because it is a first offense, your son should ask for some type of pre-trial probation or "no contest" plea and he should ask if there is someway that this can work out so that he does not have a criminal record from it (for example - pre-trial probation is informal probation with a trial date set 6 months or a year down the line and if he does not get into any further issues with the law then the court may dismiss the charges). As a first offender, there are all types of creative ways that the prosecutor can approach this rather than letting him get the criminal record (that is why it might be better if he does have an attorney to handle the case for him). He will most likely be asked who the MJ was for and why he had it and my suggestion is to simply state it was for personal use because he sometimes gets headaches and does not have any health insurance and leave it at that. Your son's intent in speaking with the prosecutor is to try to work out a deal that is best for himself and if he gets a prosecutor that does not want to negotiate and simply wants to throw the book at him (if the prosecutor mentions jail time), then your son would be best served to ask for a court appointed attorney and ask for a new court date for the matter to go forward (if he asks for a court appointed attorney or states that he will get an attorney, the court will continue the matter to give him time to meet with the attorney and plan to come back on the new date with the attorney).
So, overall your son should keep things short when asked reasons for having the MJ but give a believable reason (headaches, no health ins, personal use) and ask the prosecutor about a deal where there will be no criminal record as a first offender. The prosecutor might say no to that but then might simply make him pay a fine and perhaps do some community service (which is not as good as having no record but still better than a maximum penalty). If he feels that the prosecutor is a hard butt or the prosecutor mentions jail time then your son should state that he needs an attorney and cannot afford one and get the case continued to a later date until he can speak with an attorney and go from there.
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Hello again Juanita --
No problem on the questions. He will ask for the court appointed attorney on the day of his arraignment. That is when they evaluate his income and decide if he qualifies for a court appointed attorney -- they will tell him right there. He should go to the clerk's office for criminal business and ask if there is paperwork that he needs to complete to apply for a court appointed attorney (get there a few minutes early so he can go into the clerk's office and ask) -- some courts have that paperwork in just the clerk's offices and others have it right in the courtroom. As I said, if the prosecutor does not want to deal with him easily and it seems like the prosecutor wants to throw the book at him then he should most definitely see if he qualifies for the court appointed attorney (most people earning less than 30K a year qualify for full payment or at least a much lower rate on an attorney). Hopefully, as a first offender, things will go easy on him.
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