The Racine Journal Times recently published two articles regarding the prosecution of individuals who have been found in possession of marijuana. Dating back to 1990, Racine County decriminalized the possession of marijuana by creating a county ordinance that made possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less a civil forfeiture instead of a mandatory misdemeanor. A civil forfeiture is not a crime, but rather an offense which can only be punishable by a fine. Misdemeanor possession of marijuana carries the penalty of a criminal conviction, and maximum penalties of up to a $1,000 fine, six months jail, and five-year revocation of a person’s driver’s license.
Police officers are asked to use their own discretion as to whether someone should be referred to the District Attorney’s office for a potential misdemeanor charge, or to issue the person an ordinance violation on the spot. The decision becomes situational potentially leaving the door open for other factors to impact the decision to refer to the DA or write a ticket.
The difference between a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana and a local ordinance for possession is quite significant. A person who is charged, and convicted of a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana faces substantial fine, and even potential jail time. Further, the impact of a misdemeanor conviction is lifelong in the state of Wisconsin. A criminal conviction can make life very difficult for a person, even for a minor, who has been found guilty of non-violent offense like possession of marijuana.
The second article (2) from the Journal Times highlights the role of the District Attorney’s office when it comes to deciding whether a person is charged with the misdemeanor offense of possession of marijuana. Both articles focus on the key element of charging decisions, personal discretion. Once a person is charged with a misdemeanor there are many potential outcomes for the case, which is again based on the individual discretion of the prosecutor handling the case.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime please contact one of the lawyers at our office in Racine, Wisconsin.