What To Do If You’re Arrested for Marijuana Possession in Rhode Island
If you’ve been arrested for possession of marijuana, the consequences may be severe depending on the circumstances. Heavy fines, jail time, and loss of your driver’s license are all a possibility for a marijuana conviction.
While Rhode Island has enacted medical marijuana laws to protect legally prescribed patients, non-patients arrested for possession may still face fines or criminal sanctions. To avoid these penalties, follow the suggestions listed below:
1) If you are pulled over while driving your car, do not consent to the officer searching your vehicle.
The officer who pulled you over may attempt to intimidate you or convince you that he/she has the right to search your vehicle. This is not the case. Politely tell the officer that you do not consent to a search of your vehicle. If he/she persists or becomes aggressive or threatens you with a K9 Unit search, again, politely state your non-consent and ask the officer if you may continue on your way.
2) Do not answer any questions that may implicate you in court.
Often times the police officer will ask you questions like: “Have you been drinking?” or “It smells like marijuana in here, have you been smoking?” You do not have to answer these questions. Although the officer may pressure you and use their authority to get as much incriminating evidence to use against you, politely respond to any questions, “I’m sorry, Officer, I would like to speak to my attorney before answering any questions.”
3) Know the laws.
In Rhode Island, medical marijuana laws have been enacted and protect legally prescribed patients from being arrested for possession. However, these patients must adhere to specific requirements. (Rhode Island State Code §44-49). If they do not follow this code, they may face large fines up to $10,000 and/or 5 years in state prison.
Non-patients who possess less than 1kg of marijuana face a misdemeanor charge, up to 1 year in prison, and/or a fine of $200-$500. If arrested with more than 1kg to 5kg, the charge will be a felony, facing up to 10 years in prison and fines between $10,000-$500,000. If arrested within 300 yards of a school, park or public playground, the penalties and fines may be doubled.
4) Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after any arrest.
While an arrest for marijuana possession may not seem like a serious offense, state prosecutors often push for stiff sentences for drug offenders. With an experienced criminal defense attorney defending your case, your odds of a better outcome increase greatly. An attorney with experience defending possession charges will be able to press the prosecution on the arresting officer’s “reasonable suspicion” for apprehending you, the legality of the search, and whether or not your were read your Constitutional rights before being questioned.
Even though marijuana laws have relaxed over the years, possession of marijuana can still be a serious offense with serious consequences. Whether it’s a heavy fine, a long prison sentence, or the lingering effects of a drug conviction (e.g. loss of employment opportunities), the more knowledge you have about the law and your rights, the better off you will be in any situation.