The possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana is considered a civil offense under Maryland law. If the police believe someone is in possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana, they are instructed to issue a citation, rather than treat the matter as a criminal offense. An individual over 21 receiving the citation may pay the applicable fine, or contest the citation by requesting a trial. If they do neither, they will be found guilty of a code violation and given the maximum fine. If the individual receiving the citation is under 21, however, an appearance in court is mandatory, and prepayment is not an option. A court appearance is also required for someone who has been cited and found guilty, on two prior occasions. These individuals are summoned to court, and failing to appear can lead to consequences more serious than the maximum penalty for a less than 10 grams marijuana possession citation. A bench warrant may be issued, and, a knowing failure to appear is a misdemeanor carrying jail time and a fine. At a trial on the code violations, the same general procedures, and rights, that would govern a criminal trial apply, the important exception being that the government’s burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, as with a criminal case.
The same array of potential dispositions other than guilt.
- stet, and
- probation before judgment
All may be obtained in a prosecution for a code violation, and additional procedures apply if the individual charged is under the age of 18. For those charged and found guilty, specific provisions govern the use of the information related to the citation. If the citation is dismissed, placed on the stet docket, if the person charged is found not guilty, or if are guilty and pay the fine, the matter is considered confidential, and will not appear on case search. I'm often asked if makes economic sense for an individual charged with code violation to retain counsel to contest the charge. This arises most frequently where a person given the citation contends that they were stopped, or searched, illegally, in contravention of their constitutional rights. Certainly, the constitution does not get tossed out the window because a citation rather than a criminal charge, and in appropriate circumstances, it may be possible to get a case dismissed where a criminal defense attorney is able to keep the marijuana from being entered into evidence.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 12/4/20.