So you’ve been caught with an ounce of pot on your way home—now what?

By Brice Keller

What happens when you’re busted with an ounce of marijuana?

Let’s say you are leaving a friend’s house and you have marijuana in your car. You are driving down the highway and are pulled over for speeding or another moving violation. The officer will approach your car and ask for license, registration and insurance information. ALWAYS be polite and provide the requested information. You may have heard to “never talk to the police,” “never consent to search” and “demand to talk to a lawyer.”

As an attorney, I personally would not answer any questions that were not related to the stop. Again, always be polite and refuse a search. Refusing a search is your right and absent certain circumstances, they cannot search without probable cause. Probable cause could be the smell of marijuana, marijuana or paraphernalia in plain sight, K-9 alert or similar circumstances that lead the officers to suspect marijuana.

So what happens if there is probable cause?

If the officers do have probable cause and search your car, it’s up to you whether or not to point it out. Either way, when and if they found your ounce of marijuana, assuming a single bag, the officers will simply take the marijuana, write a ticket and send you on your way. Your case will now move to municipal court.

The State Law in Ohio (ORC 2925.11) provides that a person with less than 100 grams of marijuana would be charged with a minor misdemeanor (non-criminal), the consequences of which are a mandatory driver’s license suspension and a $150 fine, but no jail time. Some locales, like Dayton, have further decriminalized and do not impose a driver’s license suspension. If you are caught in a city or town that does suspend licenses, please seek counsel immediately. A common play is to plea to disorderly conduct for the same fine but no license suspension.

The problem with the cruel hoax of decriminalization is that there is no public defender right, (Gideon vs Wainwright, U.S. Supreme Court) when there’s no jail time. That means like a traffic ticket, you have to pay your own attorney, the burden of proof is less and there’s no jury. Basically, you are hoping to have your arguments documented in a way that you could appeal and change the law.

In closing, Ohio, in many ways, does have decriminalization but you still should be careful with weed. Selling weed can still get you in a lot of trouble. Selling large amounts, possessing concentrates and other issues that suggest trafficking can land you in even more trouble. If you are charged with or arrested for any marijuana crime, it is in your best interest to seek counsel. There are up to 300 collateral consequences of a marijuana charge that could follow you around for the rest of your life. An attorney can help in lessening that impact.

The views and opinions expressed in this guest editorial are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of Dayton City Media or its affiliates and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Michael Brice Keller is a disabled veteran and Dayton based defense attorney who works on the Appointed Counsel Rosters in Southwest Ohio.  He believes current marijuana laws are unjust, costly and cause significant harm, particularly to minorities. He and his network partners advocate for marijuana legalization, as it is objectively safer than alcohol and pharmaceuticals.  Discover more at GreenFightOhio.com, BriceKellerLaw.com, or call 937-5400-LAW

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Michael Brice Keller is a criminal defense attorney in Dayton who spends most days working on appointed counsel cases and public policy issues with his girlfriend and legal assistant Ashley. He’s a USAF Security Forces Veteran, former undercover investigator, police officer, and private military contractor. As a member of NORML and the founder of GreenFight (GreenFightOhio.com) he’s active in the reform of marijuana laws. You can reach him at BriceKeller@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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