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Nate, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 10686
Experience:  Over 10 years of criminal defense practice.
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I was camping with friends in a federal park (Sequoia) and

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I was camping with friends in a federal park (Sequoia) and some park rangers saw us drinking. He walked up to our campsite and saw a small medicine bottle of marijuana and a pipe in our chairs around the fire pit. We were all at a separate table. He also found a small medicine bottle of mushrooms. He gave us all citations under 36 CFR 2.35(b)(2). Some of us cannot get convicted (financial aid provisions, previous convictions). Two questions: (1) does each substance count as one charge or are both substances charged collectively as one? (2) if a. then does that mean there can be separate punishments; (3) if b. then is there a possibility for someone in the group to take responsibility in order for the rest to plead not guilty and fight the charges?
My name isXXXXX have over a decade of criminal law experience and will be assisting you today.

I will take your questions as numbered:

1) Each substance is considered a separate charge; however, typically speaking the punishment will be the same and all run together. Sometimes you'll only plead to one charge and the others will be dismissed. It all ultimately depends on the prosecutor and the negotiation skills of your attorneys.

2) As I noted in my answer to #1, often everything will be look at as one incident regardless of the number of citations issued.

3) Sometimes this can happen. Prosecutors are very aware of this tactic by defendants. In a group situation, often the defendants will try to pin the illegal substances on whoever has the least to lose. Because of this, the person taking responsibility must be able to offer proof the illegal items belonged to them and no one else. For instance, all the items were by the one chair where he was sitting, or that the mushrooms were in a prescription bottle of the person who claims them. There must be something tangible that would allow the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against the others.

If you have more questions please feel free to ask. I'll be happy to answer them. If you do not, please do remember to rate my service in assistance to you today.

Nate and other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Say we go with the tactic of pinning two people: one person claims the marijuana and another claims the mushrooms - does that strengthen the case for the others who must plea not guilty? What is the best type of evidence to show that those who plea not guilty were not in [constructive] possession?

Location of the items tends to work well. An articulable reason why one would have ownership is another (previous use, for example). Each case is different. To overcome constructive possession one can also show reasons why someone was not in possession. Either way can work.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The location is communal - how can we prove it was in a particular chair? Does the ranger write specifics like that in reports?

Typically they don't get that specific. In that case, whoever can say it was by their chair. It's not the strongest argument but it's the best you've got AND the ranger won't be able to refute it.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So for federal courts and because our citations were issued separately but as a group what is the procedure for our initial appearance? Do you typically see groups having the same court date or charged together? Is it similar to the state courts where in arraignment hearings groups of people with same charge are offered plea deals in exchange for fines and fees?

Typically it's similar to state court for citations in federal court. It is highly likely everyone will be on the same court date and initially offered the same plea deal.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So recap: one or two people claim the substances, the others plea not guilty - is it possible for the claimants to push for pre-trial diversion because they are first time offenders or is that reserved for those who plea not guilty?

That's correct. But it's federal court - there's virtually zero chance of any sort of diversionary agreement.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So those who plea not guilty and are first time offenders have no chance for an diversionary agreement? That means that those who plea not guilty will have to depend on the claimants testimony that it was indeed the claimants substances, and that they had no knowledge of the substances to cover them from constructive possession, correct?

I've done at least a couple hundred cases like this in my careers. That's exactly how it works 9 out of 10 times.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

What are typical punishments for the amount of one small canister of marijuana, two marijuana cigarettes, and one small canister of mushrooms if the proposed claimant(s) decide to pursue the plan? And is federal probation a possibility for punishment for the claimants?

If dealt with initially likely only a fine will result. If it's not resolved initially it can go to a federal grand jury where jail time is a real possibility.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So there's no criminal record if a fine is issued?

No, a fine is the same as pleading guilty.

I strongly suggest you retain a local defense attorney. It may seem not serious first but when dealing with any federal crime it can get serious really, really fast.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So there's pleading guilty, then the fine, and a criminal record. What is the level of criminal activity for those amounts of the substances? Infraction, misdemeanor or felony?


We do plan to hire an attorney, and are preparing by gathering information just like this.

They would be considered misdemeanors.