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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27710
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Joseph, thank you the time to read this. Here's what

Customer Question

Hi Joseph, thank you for taking the time to read this. Here's what happened: My boyfriend and me were riding around a neighborhood at around 8.30. While we were driving around I got a bit lost in a subdivision I was unfamiliar with. A police car then started following me around for a few minutes until finally pulling me over. I spoke to him and politely asked him for directions, since I was honestly unaware of where I was going, but he disregarded my question and said he needed to search my car because it smelled like marijuana. I did have both marijuana and paraphernalia on me, which was found upon searching my car and I got arrested. I was bonded out the same night and I now have to appear to court on February 24th. Now my question is, I am 22 and never had a charge for anything and have never been arrested, and even though I know I "only" have a misdemeanor id like to know what my best options are and what steps I should take to handle this situation.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Hello,

Did you give the police permission to search the car?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ma'am, he claimed to have smelled marijuana, so I complied. But I was not under the influence at the time.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Hi and thanks for the prompt reply.

Any conviction on this charge, whether you were driving under the influence of marijuana or not at the time of the stop, will result in a 6 month suspension of your driver's license. But it appears that you have not been charged for anything but possession. And because you consented to the search, it would also appear that the search was proper and would hold up against Constitutional scrutiny if you wanted to take this case to trial.

The maxiimum penalty here is a year of jail, but on a first arrest of this sort, for someone who possessed in personal use amount, jail is usually not a real concern. There are special programs, in fact, which would not only keep you out of jail but could allow you to walk away from this case without a criminal conviction on your record. Typically, that would consist of a period of supervision whereby you stay out of further trouble with the law, refrain from further illicit drug use, perform community service and pay fines. At the end of your supervisory period, the case would be dismissed.

Although you'd be eligible for something like that, it's hte prosecutor's call as to whether to allow you to get that kind of a deal or not. It may have to be negotiated for you. This meass that if you can retain a lawyer, you should have him or her with you when you appear in court to protect your rights, help you make informed decisions, and if you want an offer from the state, to get you the most favorable one available. If you cannot afford one, then you can go to court without one, plead not guilty to the charge to keep all of your rights open, and then ask the judge to appoint you a public defender, who can advise you and take the case from there.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
you would recommend going to court and pleading not guilty at first?
I've never been arrested, to court, or in any kind of legal trouble and also quite unfamiliar with the law and what kind of legal actions to take. I just want to make sure that I'm taking all the necessary steps and that I'm being as cautious as I can to have this case work out. Obviously I broke the law and have to now face the consequences, but I'm honestly just very afraid to upset the judge and somehow affect his ruling.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Yes. ALL criminal defendants are considered innocent under the law until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You are probably going to eventually plead guilty, because it doesn't look like a good case to take to trial, BUT the second you plead guilty you have convicted yourself of a crime, and then it's too late to get advice about your case or to negotiate a favorable plea agreement.

So you must plead NOT Guilty when you are arraigned on the charges. That allows you the time to get a lawyer, to be advised by him, and to have your lawyer negotiate a deal which can, if possible, keep this conviction off of your record and maybe even keep your license from being suspended. Then, once such a deal is on the table, you can take back your not guilty plea and enter a plea of guilty to get the proposed deal. This is how it's done all over the country.

In short, any plea other than NOT GUILTY, will get you a conviction and a criminal record. So defendants plead NOT GUILTY and remain in a not guilty position until they work out an agreement and know just what they will get in exchange for a guilty plea.