OKC Marijuana Defense Lawyer
Anna Herman, host
Jacqui Ford, Attorney
Anna Herman, host: Hello! Welcome to Your Best Defense podcast. My name is Anna, and I am visiting here today with OKC marijuana defense lawyer Jacqui Ford. How are you doing Jacqui?
Jacqui Ford, Attorney: I’m doing great Anna. Thanks.
A: Awesome! We are going to wrap our little series speaking about drug possession charges by going in to a little bit of more detail about marijuana charges.
J: All right. Marijuana. Everybody’s favorite plant. Right? Marijuana’s making a big change right now in our country. We’ve got states are legalizing. There’s this big battle with the federal government as to what we’re going to do. And people ask me all the time, “What does this mean for us in Oklahoma?” What it means for us right now is nothing. Marijuana is as illegal today as it has ever been. And I’m going to tell you that law enforcement and the prosecutions are not easing up on marijuana charges because they need the money to justify their existence. So if they can pop you with a marijuana charge they’re going to do it. In addition to that, if they can pile on any other charge on top of that, they’re likely to try to do that too.
Marijuana is a huge source of income for the state of Oklahoma. Right? The reason for that lot is a lot of people partake in it recreationally. And so, therefore, the court costs are high and prevalent. It’s a common charge for people to get. It is treated differently than every other drug, too. So, that’s why we’re talking about it separately. One of the benefits that Oklahoma law gives us with respect to marijuana is you get a one-shot to not have a felony charge with marijuana. That is assuming of course, that you have no priors. Okay? So, if you’ve never been arrested for a drug charge, and you’ve never been convicted of a drug charge, the first time you’re arrested for simple possession of marijuana is going to be treated as a misdemeanor. I want to be clear it’s simple possession. If your first-time offense they’re charging with possession with intent to distribute that’s going to be a felony every time. If you are possessing more than 25 grams, or more, of marijuana that will be trafficking in marijuana. Did I say grams? I meant 25 pounds of marijuana. Right? So, 25 pounds of marijuana is quite a bit. So, if you’re possessing anything less than that, and you don’t have other indicators, such as baggies, scales and ledgers and all that, then there’s a good chance you’re going to get charged locally.
A lot of our smaller jurisdictions, our municipalities, the city of Oklahoma City, the city of Midwest City, the city of Edmond, also have marijuana crimes that they can charge at a local level. And so, people ask me, “How do I know if it’s going to go state or it’s going to go city?” Well, it depends. It depends on a lot of things. Number one, it depends on who the arresting agency is. If it’s a city police department there’s a decent chance that your charge will be maintained in the city Municipal Court. Of course, if it’s Oklahoma Highway Patrol, a state trooper, they can only present charges to state offices. So that would go to the District Court of whatever county you’re in.
Although, it’s still a misdemeanor, and this is a good deal for people to kind of not have a permanent scar on the record for partaking in smoking something that is natural. Right? So, it’s not decriminalized. It is still a crime, and it comes a lot of times of heavy court costs. So, your first-time offense of marijuana possession could be in the city or in state. And much like the other drug crimes that we’ve talked about conviction for that, or even catching a deferred, entering a plea of any kind is going to result in having to do a drug and alcohol assessment. And any follow-up that they recommend. And we’ve talked briefly about those in the past. Briefly, that’s going to include maybe an AA meetings or NA meetings. Maybe doing a couple clean urinalysis. Pee clean a couple times. Sometimes, especially in state court and some of these municipalities, they’ll put you in outpatient substance-related abuse classes. Many of my client do those prior to entering a plea. The reason that’s important is because, just because, it’s just a misdemeanor, people oftentimes think it’s no big deal. Sometimes, their lawyers failed to tell them that just because this one was “just a misdemeanor” doesn’t mean it is always going to be just a misdemeanor.
If you’re arrested a second time for possession of marijuana, even if it’s not with intent, even if is not trafficking, just simple possession, maybe just a joint or even half of a joint, your second-time offense most likely will be filed as a felony. And you went from a little misdemeanor with the Urine County jail, to a possible range of punishment of up to 10 years in the Department of Corrections. That’s mind-blowing to many people. So, it’s important to just let that sit on you for a second. A simple joint, or a half a joint, could possibly land you in the Department of Corrections as a hardened criminal for up to 10 years. It’s important to be informed. Right?
The next level of charges after a misdemeanor possession of marijuana would be the felony possession of marijuana. The punishment, of course, we’ve already talked about. The things you’re going to have to do on probation, or in order to get some sort of mercy from the court, are going to be the same: drug and alcohol assessment, the follow-up that they recommend, a couple of clean UAs, and learning to make pretty much better decisions. I’ve asked clients numerous times what do they teach you in these substance-related abuse classes. I’m curious. Oftentimes, what they teach them is how to deal with stress, how to manage when situations come up. How to deal with them other than “self-medicating”.
I strongly believe that marijuana will be legal in the state of Oklahoma very soon. A lot of that we can attribute to the advocates we’re going to meet on our next podcast. One of them, Norma Sapp, is going to come visit with us. She is one of the head front people of NORML here in Oklahoma City, which is an organization designed to legalize marijuana. It’s nationwide. And she’s going to talk to us about some of the things that are happening locally to change laws here in Oklahoma. But many people come in, and they think, “Well, just marijuana! Why is it being treated this way?” Well, because you’re in Oklahoma, the heart of the Bible Belt. We are the reddest state in the state of Oklahoma. Our legislature’s conservative. We do we do not care that it’s just marijuana, because it’s big income generator.
Also, what we see a lot now is a big push for civil asset forfeiture. And what that means is if you’re arrested with the quantity of marijuana, and any quantity of cash, law-enforcement may very well seize that cash. And they seize it, and try to take it from you in a different action separate from your criminal charge in a civil forfeiture action. And you have to defend the fact that that’s not actually drug money. You are then required to prove that you received that money in a lawful way.
Some other charges that we see in Oklahoma dealing with marijuana is cultivation. So, what happens if you’ve got somebody growing weed? Right? A lot of folks will grow a plant or two at home. Some people have themselves a nice little operation where maybe they’re selling from that. Cultivation of marijuana is an incredibly offensive felony to our legislatures. Punishment is very high. Your bond is going to be very high. Getting caught growing, or cultivating, and maintaining marijuana is likely going to land your butt in jail for a very, very long time.
One of the other charges that we see a lot with possession of marijuana charges, especially if you possess large quantities. They can’t quite make trafficking because you don’t have 25 pounds of marijuana, but you have large quantities of marijuana your house. They can charge you with maintaining a dwelling. At that point, the government has to prove that the dwelling, or the location, in which the marijuana was found, is primarily used for storing, transporting, growing, or distributing. If they can show that basically your home is a dope house, and that people are coming there and buying and selling, which you’re selling large quantities. They can charge you with maintaining a dwelling for the purposes of possession or distribution marijuana. They can seize your house.
So, the punishment just gets more and more and more and more. People oftentimes are just unaware of how harsh our statutes are regarding marijuana. A lot of my clients are from out-of-state. Who get pulled over on basic traffic stop coming through Oklahoma. And from where their jurisdiction possession of marijuana is just a ticket. You go to California and possession of marijuana up to a certain amount, and you’re just paying a ticket. Now, of course, it’s legal. Right? A lot of jurisdictions decriminalized it. People ask me what that means too. Decriminalization of marijuana just means you’re not going to prison for it. You just get cited. It’s like a traffic ticket. You pay a fine. And so, people are unaware that when you drive, on the roads, in Oklahoma you’re deemed to know the laws of Oklahoma, and ignorance is not a defense.
So, how do we avoid getting big, big problems in Oklahoma? The best way is don’t ride dirty. Do not carry your marijuana, your smoking devices, a pipe, a bong, you know rolling papers, anything like that with you in your car.
Another thing that people need to know is that you have to be aware of what other people do in your car, and whether people possess in your car. Marijuana charges oftentimes come from traffic stops which is why I kind of harp on what’s going on in the car. In Oklahoma, possession has nothing to do with ownership. So, sometimes my clients say, “That wasn’t even my weed! You know? That was Joey’s weed. He was just in my car.” Oklahoma doesn’t care. You’re not being charged with ownership of marijuana, you’re being charged with possession.
There’s two types of possession Oklahoma. There’s actual possession, and there’s constructive possession. And the example I always use with my clients is if we’re all driving down the street, and I’m driving. I’m speeding, I do that often. And they pull me over for speeding, and they search the car, and they find marijuana in the console. And the police officer says, “All right. Whose weed is it? Somebody pony up.” And nobody ponies up to that weed, there’s a strong likelihood that law-enforcement officer’s arresting everybody in the car for constructive possession. Even when somebody ponies up to it, if the law-enforcement officer wants to, he can arrest everybody.
So, constructive possession simply means that you have access to it. You know it’s there. You reasonably should know it’s there. You can pick it up, use it, destroy it, smoke it, if you will. So that’s a different kind of way of finding yourself charged with marijuana. It’s problematic. So, don’t ride dirty. If you don’t have it on you, they can’t arrest you for it.
The other thing we see with marijuana these days is people get charged with DUI-drugs. Most people believe that DUIs just have to do with alcohol. DUI-drugs are much more common charge these days. We have officers who go to specific training, and they have certificates that they’re drug-recognition experts. And they come in, and they testify that the way you talked and the way your eyes looked. And in their training and experience you’re under the influence of something. It must’ve been marijuana. So, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime. And you can’t do that. So, if you’re going to smoke, no judgment here, it’s not legal and I cannot advise you to do it, and I am not advising you to do it. But if you choose to partake in the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana – you need to do it at home. You need to do it without children around. Possession of marijuana in the presence of the child makes it an automatic felony. That’s important. So, your first-time freebie is no longer a first-time misdemeanor. Now it’s a felony because kids are around.
Possession of CDS within a 1000 feet of a school, or a park, is also a felony. We haven’t really talked about this in the other podcasts, but isn’t that interesting? That if you’re puled around traffic stop and you happen to be a 1000 feet from a school or a park, your little joint just turned into a felony. Even though everybody knows that that statute was designed to get drug dealers out of our playgrounds, and out of the schools. Oftentimes, law enforcement will initiate a traffic stop knowing they’re a 1000 feet away from school just to trump that charge up.
My advice, there’s not a level weed, or a level of high, that is worthy of a night in the Oklahoma County jail. There’s not an amount of weed, or quality of weed, or a high that is worthy of 10 years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Possession of marijuana charges tend to get expensive. Your bonds are expensive. Hiring an experienced OKC marijuana defense lawyer is also not cheap. We have a lot of work to do to defend you. It is not the end all. Just because you’re busted doesn’t mean you’re convicted. Just because you’re busted doesn’t mean it’s over. But it does mean that we’re going to have some work to do. And you’re going to have some work to do too.
One of the other things that I see a lot more now, than before, especially since we have more legalized states that are selling different types of drugs. People are becoming more educated on marijuana, and the different varieties of marijuana. We have the Sativa, and Indica, and different flavors. And people get excited about trying the different things that makes us feel different ways. So even though your intention is just to possess several different varieties, like many of us possess varieties of wine or beer or soda. If you choose possess a variety of marijuana you have opened yourself up to very likely charge of possession with intent to distribute. The courts have looked at different indicators as to what could lead to a possession with intent to distribute charge, and it’s always a totality of the circumstances. But if you have a number of bags of marijuana separately packaged, sometimes they’ll use that to say, “Hey you weren’t going to smoke all that. You have four different bags. You are probably going to sell it, or share it, or distribute it.” So, that’s a common mistake that people make – is keeping a variety. That increases their criminal liability.
Finally, we’ve talked about it on some of the other podcasts, but I think it’s important to talk about here too. Distribution possession with intent to distribute is not necessarily what you think it is. It does not mean that you’re a drug dealer, or that you’ve even made a single dollar on a transaction, but if you’ve got Joe, who wants to buy some weed, and you know Bob, and Bob got some weed. And you go to get Bob’s weed, and take it to Joe, and you don’t make a single bit of money, you have participated in the distribution of CDS. That is a felony. It carries up to life in prison.
If you are one of those social smokers who doesn’t like to get high alone, you prefer to do it with friends. And you roll up a fatty, and you’re passing it around. Every time you take that hit, and pass it to the person to your right – that’s distribution of CDS – two to life. When they hit it, and pass it to their right, distribution of CDS – two to life. Distribution possession with intent does not mean that you are a drug dealer or that you are selling. It means that you are sharing, and “sharing used to be caring”. In the drug world sharing is distribution, and sharing makes you a convicted felon.
So, if you choose partake, partake smartly. Don’t do it on the road. Don’t do it around kids. Don’t do it around a school. And don’t share with your friends. And that’s the best advice I can give you based upon the law in Oklahoma as it stands today. We will all continue to work diligently to get marijuana decriminalized in this state. And hopefully, it’s my belief, that we will have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana, in the state, a lot sooner than many might expect. My prediction is within the next five years.
A: That is a lot of great information. I can tell what side you’re on.
J: I’m on the individual side. I’m all about liberty. If you want to put things in your body to feel better, than by God, why not do it?
A: Amen, amen.
J: Certainly not as bad as the booze? Right Anna?
A: I definitely have to agree with that. You’ve been listening to Jacquelyn Ford OKC marijuana defense lawyer. Join us next time. Thank you.