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Marijuana Laws

Top California Marijuana Criminal Defense Lawyer

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It is now legal in California for anyone 21 years of age or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and to smoke the stuff if he or she is so inclined (H&S § 11362.1(a)(1) & (3)) The person need no longer have a medical necessity for doing so. (See the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996," per H&S §§ 11362.5 et seq.) In other words, the "recreational use" of marijuana is now lawful in California. But there are limitations.

One heavily enforced area of new law is that of open container in a vehicle. In California Marijuana can sold at a retailers place of business already packaged from the distributors and manufacturers with the factory seals on them. The consumer purchases the sealed “containers” of Cannabis from the retailer and then will be responsible for transporting the marijuana in its “sealed” state. Only at their place of destination can they remove the factory seal. Should any person break the factory seal after purchase during transport or drives around with Cannabis containers where the factory seal is broken then under California law they possess an “open container”, even if the container of marijuana is technically closed. This applies to both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle. The driver would be guilty of VC23222(b)(1) and the passenger would be committing a violation of Health & Safety Code 11362.3(a)(4).

Anyone facing a criminal charge involving Marijuana in Los Angeles should call the Top California Criminal Defense Attorney in the area.

On the limited issue of the use or possession of marijuana in vehicles, the following statutory restrictions are important: H&S § 11362.3(a) makes it illegal (an infraction) to smoke or ingest marijuana (1) in a public place (subd. (a)(1), which arguably includes in a vehicle while out on the public streets or in any other public place), (2) anywhere where smoking tobacco is prohibited (subd. (a)(2)), (3) within 1,000 feet (including simple possession, whether or not it's being smoked, if on the grounds) of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present (subd. (a)(3) & (5)), or (4) while driving or operating, or when riding in the passenger seat or compartment, of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, or aircraft (subd. (a)(7) & (8)). It is also illegal for anyone to (5) possess (whether or not it's being smoked) an open container or open package of marijuana while driving, operating, or riding in the passenger seat of a motor vehicle, boat, vessel, or aircraft. (Subd. (a)(4))

The marijuana laws in California are vast and complex ranging from legalized possession for those who are infirm and have legitimate medical justifications to the highly criminalized sales, cultivation and importation of the plant. In recent years there has been a war if you will between the state and federal government regarding what is legal and illegal under the current criminal drug laws. At the low end of the spectrum, there are the simple possession of marijuana statutes such as Health and Safety Code Section 11357(b) which makes it a misdemeanor to possess less than one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Although the code makes this offense criminal, the maximum punishment for a conviction is a mere $100 fine and no jail time. On the opposite side of the criminal spectrum are the laws that prohibit the importation of large amounts of marijuana across federal borders and the mass cultivation of the cash crop for purposes of widespread sales. Whatever the offense, Criminal Defense Lawyer, Matthew J. Ruff has personally defended clients facing serious prison time for marijuana related charges in Los Angeles and Kern County. Mr. Ruff has fought and won cases involving illegal search and seizure by the police, and successfully obtained many dismissals of cases where his clients have been victimized by law enforcement and had there constitutional rights trampled on by over zealous cops and government officials.

The medical marijuana law in California used to omly allow a person with a doctor's permission to possess and ingest cannabis for a medical purpose. Cultivation was also permissible within certain limitations. Caregivers could assist in obtaining the medicinal marijuana from dispeneries and provide it to the patient. All this recently changed and California now allows those over 21 to smoke marijuana even without a nnddical excuse. However a gray area exists as it relates to the transportation of the drug. Also, many police agencies are under the mistaken impression that concentrated cannabis is excluded from the compassionate use laws, this is incorrect.

More problematic are the cases involving driving and the use of marijuana. Indeed it is legal for those with prescriptions to possess and use marijuana, however, one is still prohibited from driving while under the influence of cannabis or cannibinoids. VC 23152 governs the use of drugs and driving and it is clear that if the person is in fact "under the influence of marijuana" than he or she can be guilty of DUI. However, the determination of impairment cannot be easily determined when dealing with marijuana versus say alcohol which has a per se level of illegality. Problems of proof can exist when a urine test is given to detect cannabis in a person's system, then correlate that to some level of impairment. Most cases of DUI involving marijuana can be defended by an experienced attorney. Matthew Ruff has an excellent track record in dismissals involving DWI and marijuana.

Associated with that of DWI and marijuana is the frequent case that the vehicle may contain a small amount of pot, usually in a pipe or small baggie or container. Because the marijuana is in a car the crime of VC23222 is usually charged as opposed to that of H&S11357(b). The major difference is that if the driver is convicted of the 23222 offense it will appear on the individual's driving record because it is a moving violation. This means points will be added along with a likely increase in insurance, the potential loss of jobs, etc. Hiring an attorney for this scenario is the intelligent thing to do, Mr. Ruff has a near perfect track record in having these violations dismissed.

What about the marijuana smoking pipe? Well interestingly it is not a crime in California to possess a marijuana pipe as it is not considered drug paraphernalia under Health and safety Code 11364. That is not to say the police will not try to allege possession if some of the marijuana remains in the bowl, however any amount must be of a "usable quantity".

One last point, many people have asked over the years whether they can be guilty of possession of marijuana if the substance is not on their person, say it is in the car in which they are merely an occupant. The law as it relates to possession requires two elements; 1) knowledge and 2) Dominion and Control. This means that the person accused must have had knowledge of the existence of the marijuana and must have had either the ability to control the item or have it on their person, in their own car, house, etc. The law does recognize joint possession, in other words, two or more people can be in possession of the same item. Ownership is not required.

With over fifteen years experience defending clients charged with all drug crimes pertaining to marijuana, pot, cannabis sativa, hemp, weed, reefer, hash, marihuana, and all its variations, attorney Matthew Ruff can help to resolve your case. Serving all areas of Los Angeles County, Kern County, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes, Long Beach, Bakersfield, Santa Monica Hermosa Beach, Burbank, Glendale, Redondo Beach and most Southern California Criminal Courts.

Contact the attorney for a free case evaluation today Toll Free at 1-877-213-4453

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