Category Archives: Marijuana Offenses

Will Nevada Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use?

On Tuesday, voters in Nevada will decide whether to pass the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, also known as Question 2. If the measure passes, adults 21 years of age or older would be allowed to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of concentrated marijuana.

The Las Vegas Sun reported on October 31 that an October 26 KNTV/Rasmussen Poll showed 53 percent of Nevada residents were in favor of the ballot initiative. Even if the measure passes, marijuana will not become instantly legal as the “bill provides for the 2017 Legislature to make amendments and clarify technicalities it believes are too loosely written,” according to the Sun.

If Question 2 passes, qualified adults would be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana (or one-eighth of marijuana concentrates) and up to 2.5 ounces per two weeks. People could grow up to six plants for their personal use so long as they live more than 25 miles from a medical marijuana facility, but such households would not be able to have more than 12 plants.

Smoking cannabis or consuming marijuana edibles would have to be done on private property, as consumption in public would be punishable by a $600 fine. People who distribute marijuana to individuals under 21 years of age could face felony or misdemeanor charges, depending on the quantity involved.

The Nevada Department of Taxation would oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, distributors, cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, and testing facilities. Local governments would still be able to control where marijuana businesses could be located, but they could not enforce complete bans.

In addition to traditional state and local taxes, wholesale marijuana sales would also be subject to a 15 percent excise tax that would be used to fund the implementation and enforcement of the new regulations. All additional revenue derived from marijuana sales would go to the State Distributive School Account to be used for public K-12 education.

In the information booklet provided to voters by the Nevada Secretary of State, supporters in favor of Question 2 argue that the initiative “is a sensible change in law for the state” that “will benefit Nevada by regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.” Opponents argue that “Question 2 is nothing more than a power grab from mostly out-of-state special interests who want to get rich.”

Criminal Defense Lawyer for Marijuana Offenses in Las Vegas, NV

Nevada is one of five states voting Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana use and the Silver State could become the sixth state in the nation to take such a measure. Under current state law, possession of marijuana not for the purpose of sale carries serious penalties for alleged offenders.

Nevada Revised Statute § 453.336 establishes the following grades for offenses involving possession of one ounce or less of marijuana:

  • First Offense — Misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $600;
  • Second Offense — Misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000;
  • Third Offense — Gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000; or
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense — Category E felony punishable by up to four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

If you are arrested or have already been charged with illegal possession of cannabis in Nevada, it is in your best interest to make sure that you have legal representation before you say anything to authorities. An experienced Las Vegas marijuana defense attorney can fight to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case, including possibly having the criminal charges or reduced.

Will Recent Deaths Prompt Bigger ‘Party Drug’ Crackdown?

Party Drugs

The deaths of two young women from suspected drug overdoses at the Hard Summer music festival in Pomona, California, last month prompted calls for action about the use of controlled substance at similar events. The Los Angeles Times reported that the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors agreed the following Tuesday to develop a plan to impose a moratorium on similar electronic dance music events.

Despite opposition from electronic dance music event promoters, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the events deserved special attention not only because of a history with drugs, but also because recent fatalities have occurred on county-owned properties. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that increased security measure this year at Hard Summer actually resulted in less drugs being seized than last year while the number of hospitalizations quintupled.

According to the Tribune, patdowns and drug-sniffing dogs led to less than five pounds of drugs—roughly one pound of which was ecstasy and the remaining amount being marijuana—being confiscated this year while the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department seized over 30 pounds in 2014. Pomona Police Department Deputy Police Chief Michael Olivieri told the Tribune that the security was “the most thorough” he’s ever seen.

“I don’t know how you could increase or become more intrusive at a concert, unless you really did submit people to a strip search,” Olivieri told the Tribune. “If you can smuggle drugs and dope into a prison facility … there is no way security measures at a concert venue can be as tight.”

An Associated Press story published in the Las Vegas Sun on August 3 noted that there “at least 19 people have died from overdoses or in drug-related incidents involving music festivals in California and Las Vegas since 2006.”

This past June, 24-year-old Nicholas Austin Tom was pronounced dead at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the Electric Daisy Carnival, a festival attended by roughly 135,000 fans that saw 1,400 medical calls and 27 incidents involving people being taken to the hospital. The Clark County Coroner’s office later said Tom died of ecstasy intoxication.

The increased attention that these deaths and hospitalizations this summer have garnered will only lead to additional pressure on local authorities to get more drug charges. This could very well lead to additional searches of younger people even before they ever enter concert venues.

The idea of more young adults being searched without any suspicion or probable cause inevitably calls into question the legality of any such searches. Any person who has been stopped by police for a common traffic infraction needs to remember that an offense such as speeding or an unsafe lane change does not authorize a police officer to search the motor vehicle.

While a first offense for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor in Nevada, ecstasy (otherwise known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA) is considered a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that a first offense for MDMA possession is a category E felony.

Any drug crime can have serious consequences for an alleged offender, but this is especially true for young adults. A conviction for a controlled substance offense can make the offender ineligible for financial aid for college, and the criminal record can have damaging employment consequences later on.

If you have been charged with possessing an illegal drug or even drug paraphernalia in the Las Vegas area, you will want to immediately seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate all of your possible defenses. If there was any police misconduct or procedural errors during your arrest, you could possibly have your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Troubling Supreme Court Opinion Gives Anonymous Tipsters Weight in Providing Reasonable Suspicion

pulled over cop lightsA U.S. Supreme Court opinion handed down last week is giving significant new weight to people who anonymously call in tips to police. In Navarette v. California, the Court upheld a marijuana conviction that hinged on the issue of whether an anonymous tip gave enough cause to pull a driver over for drunk driving.

To pull a driver over for DUI, police must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk. This standard is less than probable cause, the standard necessary for an arrest or search warrant. It does require clear facts from a sufficiently reliable source, from which an officer can infer suspicion that the suspect committed a crime. For drunk driving, that could include erratic driving, driving too fast or traffic violations, such as rolling through a stop sign.

In the Navarette case, police received an anonymous tip that a driver had almost driven the tipster off the road. The caller gave a description of the vehicle and its license plate number. Believing this type of driving indicated the driver was intoxicated, police located the truck and followed it for five minutes. Despite witnessing no signs of drunk driving, officers pulled the truck over.

Police smelled marijuana, searched the truck and found 30 pounds of cannabis. The driver and petitioner were convicted on drug charges, and appealed on the issue of whether the stop was legal.

In the 5-4 opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court ruled that it was. Thomas wrote that the anonymous tip was sufficiently reliable because there was too little time between the alleged incident and the call to fabricate a story and because the tipster called 911, which meant she knew that the call could be traced and she could face charges for a false report if the call was untrue.

Reckless driving gave police sufficient reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over on suspicion of driving under the influence, so the stop was legal, Thomas wrote.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the majority opinion a “freedom-destroying cocktail,” with both the proposition that the tip was reliable and the proposition that the information in the tip was sufficient reasonable suspicion for drunk driving being false.

Police had no reason to believe the information in the tip, that the truck had nearly driven the tipster off the road, was even true, Scalia wrote. Furthermore, the information itself did not indicate the driver was drunk, and following the truck for five minutes with no signs of intoxicated driving should have indicated that he was not, Scalia said.

The majority ruling is a troubling development on the issue of reasonable suspicion and the ability of police to stop a person. Previously, the court had allowed an anonymous tip to suffice for reasonable suspicion when the caller had predicted an exact pattern of behavior. In Alabama v. White, in 1990, an anonymous tip said that a woman would drive a brown station wagon with a broken tail light from an apartment building to a motel, and that she would have cocaine. The fact that the tipster was knowledgeable enough to accurately predict behavior gave the tip sufficient reliability.

The Navarette case expands the reliability granted to anonymous tipsters. It does not overrule Florida v. J.L., a 2000 case in which the tip simply stated that a young black man in a plaid shirt at a bus stop had a gun. In that case, the tip was not sufficiently reliable. However, the Navarette case does appear to dramatically narrow the grounds by which a tip should be deemed unreliable, with the mere facts that the caller dialed 911 and had a short amount of time to fabricate a story being sufficient.

Brianna’s Law Now in Effect, Las Vegas Police Can Now Search Your DNA For Any Crime Without Probable Cause

Arrested man and gavelA new law went into effect July 1 that requires police to take a swab of your cheek to collect DNA when you are arrested for a felony. If a court finds police had probable cause to arrest you, police can then run a search of your DNA against a database of all crime scenes.

The basic effect of this new law is that if you are a suspect for one felony, you are then a suspect for all crimes committed. Police and prosecutors now have the power to conduct a warrantless search on a person for crimes they have no probable cause— or any reason at all — to believe that person committed.

The law is a mockery of the Constitution and an affront to the principles of privacy and liberty it espouses. Unfortunately, a slim majority of the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t think so. In the Maryland v. King case decided last month, the Court decided that a similar law was constitutional. The majority opinion outrageously compared taking DNA, which contains all biological data on a person, to taking a fingerprint — that is used for “identification.”

The minority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, correctly points out that the DNA is, in fact, to be taken to search the suspect for other crimes, skipping the normal process that would require police to show probable cause in order to obtain a warrant to collect a sample from the suspect.

The law in Nevada is called “Brianna’s Law.” It is named after a girl who was murdered in Reno in 2008, under the unknowable pretense that it would have somehow kept her alive. It is unfortunate that the Nevada Legislature believed it was necessary to destroy every person’s right to privacy by passing this bill. Every senator, Republican and Democrat alike, voted for it. There were nine members of the Assembly with the bravery and sufficient concern for the privacy of their citizens to vote against it.

While, with the recent United States Supreme Court decision it seems unlikely the law will be repealed or overturned by a Court, it makes it much more important now to hire an effective Las Vegas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest for a felony. If your lawyer can show there was no probable cause for the arrest, the DNA sample should be destroyed.

Similarly, if you are arrested for a felony, but the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor, a request can be made to destroy the evidence. For example, you are arrested for possession with intent to sell marijuana, a felony. Your Las Vegas marijuana defense lawyer could challenge evidence or negotiate down to a misdemeanor possession charge, and then move that the DNA sample be destroyed.  Also, it is important that If you were arrested for a felony and the prosecution did not file charges that you notify the Nevada Criminal Repository to remove your name and your DNA from their database.  Your Las Vegas Record Sealing Attorney will be able to assist you in getting your privacy back.

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