Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Marijuana Disposition Certificate?

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Marijuana Disposition Certificate?

Marijuana laws have changed a lot in recent years. Many states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. But even in states where marijuana is legal, you can still face criminal charges related to marijuana possession, use, or distribution. If you receive a criminal charge related to marijuana, you may need a criminal defense lawyer to help protect your rights and avoid serious penalties.

What is a Marijuana Disposition Certificate?

A marijuana disposition certificate is a document that shows the outcome of your marijuana criminal case. It will state if the charges were dismissed, if you were convicted, or if you received a conditional discharge or adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD).The disposition certificate is an official court record of the case outcome. You may need to show this certificate as proof of how your case was resolved if it comes up on background checks for jobs, housing, loans etc.

When Would I Need a Lawyer for a Marijuana Case?

Here are some common situations when having a criminal defense lawyer can help with a marijuana charge:

  • You are facing criminal charges for possessing, selling, growing, or distributing marijuana. Even if marijuana is legal in your state, you can still face criminal charges if you possess over the legal limit, sell without a license, transport across state lines, etc. A lawyer can help get charges reduced or dismissed.
  • You received a notice to appear in court for a marijuana possession ticket or citation. While a minor marijuana charge may only be a fine, it still creates a criminal record. A lawyer can try to get the charges dropped so you avoid a conviction.
  • You failed to pay a fine or appear in court for a marijuana citation and now have a bench warrant. A lawyer can help get the warrant lifted and resolve the original charges.
  • You are applying for a marijuana business license or employment in the cannabis industry. A past marijuana conviction can disqualify you. A lawyer can help expunge or seal old marijuana convictions from your record.
  • You are facing immigration consequences from a marijuana conviction. This can impact your visa, green card, or citizenship application. A lawyer can help minimize the immigration penalties.
  • You are on probation and failed a drug test for marijuana. A probation violation can result in jail time. A lawyer can help defend against probation revocation.
  • Your driver’s license was suspended over an unpaid fine for a marijuana ticket. A lawyer can help restore your driving privileges.
  • You received a marijuana conviction decades ago that is impacting your record. A lawyer can help apply for a pardon or expungement to clear your record.

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?

A marijuana criminal defense lawyer has experience handling cannabis cases and understands the complex laws and penalties surrounding marijuana offenses. There are several ways a lawyer can help:

  • Negotiate with the prosecutor – The lawyer can speak with the prosecutor to get marijuana charges reduced or dismissed through plea bargaining or diversion programs. This avoids a conviction.
  • Challenge evidence and raise defenses – If the case goes to trial, the lawyer can scrutinize the evidence, raise doubts about marijuana possession or distribution, and put forth defenses like improper search, lack of knowledge, or medical marijuana compliance.
  • Advocate for an ACD or conditional discharge – The lawyer can argue for the marijuana charges to be dismissed through an ACD or conditional discharge after a probationary period. This avoids a conviction.
  • Mitigate penalties – If convicted, the lawyer can advocate for lighter sentencing, alternate programs, or probation instead of jail time.
  • Assist with record clearing – The lawyer can help expunge, seal, or pardon old marijuana convictions from your criminal record. This removes barriers to jobs, licenses, housing, loans etc.
  • Guide you through the process – The criminal justice system can be complex and intimidating. A lawyer handles the paperwork, court procedures, negotiations with police/prosecutors so you avoid pitfalls.

Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer increases the chances of a favorable outcome and prevents overcharging, excess penalties, and lifelong impacts from a marijuana conviction.

What Should I Do if Charged With a Marijuana Offense?

If you are facing any marijuana-related criminal charges, here are important steps to take:

  • Remain silent – Do not admit anything or make statements to the police without your lawyer present. What you say can be used against you.
  • Hire a lawyer immediately – Having a lawyer at the earliest stages is critical for building your defense and negotiating with prosecutors. Delay can hurt your case.
  • Follow court instructions – If given a ticket or summons to appear in court, be sure to show up on time. Missing a court date can result in an arrest warrant.
  • Discuss options with your lawyer – Explore options like charge dismissal, plea deals, diversion programs, record expungement, probation etc. Your lawyer will explain the pros/cons of each option.
  • Get character references – Ask friends, employers, teachers etc. to write letters attesting to your good character to help your lawyer argue for leniency.
  • See a doctor if using medical marijuana – Get documentation from your doctor about medical necessity to support a medical marijuana defense.
  • Avoid discussing case online – Do not post about your marijuana case on social media. This can be used against you.
  • Comply with probation terms – If given probation, follow all conditions like drug testing, treatment, community service to avoid violations.

Taking these steps immediately gives you the best chance of resolving marijuana charges without long-term impacts on your record and future opportunities.

What are the Penalties for Marijuana Convictions?

Marijuana laws and penalties vary widely between states. Some states have decriminalized minor marijuana possession, making it a civil violation with a fine. Others treat all marijuana offenses as serious felonies.Possible criminal penalties for marijuana convictions include:

  • Jail time – This ranges from a few days for minor misdemeanors to years in prison for marijuana trafficking. Prior offenses lead to longer sentences.
  • Fines – Criminal fines for marijuana can range from $100 for minor possession to $100,000 or more for trafficking. Unpaid fines can result in jail time.
  • Probation – Terms often include mandatory drug testing, treatment, community service, or suspension of driver’s license. Violating probation can lead to incarceration.
  • Criminal record – All convictions result in a permanent criminal record visible to employers, landlords, schools, government agencies etc. This creates barriers to jobs, housing, loans, and opportunities.
  • Loss of rights – Marijuana convictions can result in loss of voting rights, gun ownership rights, access to federal student loans etc. Some convictions make you ineligible for citizenship.
  • Asset forfeiture – Police can seize property like cars and cash that are suspected to be connected to marijuana distribution. Even without a conviction, it can be difficult to get assets back.
  • Child custody issues – Marijuana use or distribution convictions can impact child custody rights and lead to loss of custody or visitation.
  • Parole/probation violations – Those on parole or probation face penalties like re-incarceration if convicted of a new marijuana offense.

Because penalties can be so severe, having an experienced marijuana crimes lawyer is critical to avoid conviction and reduce penalties if convicted.

Can I Get a Marijuana Conviction Expunged?

Many states allow expungement (record sealing) of past marijuana convictions, especially for minor possession. Expungement requirements vary by state but often involve:

  • Having no subsequent criminal convictions for a period of time
  • Completing probation or all court-ordered terms
  • Paying fines and fees related to the conviction
  • Submitting a petition/application to the court

If approved, an expunged marijuana conviction is essentially removed from your criminal record. It should not appear on background checks by employers, landlords etc. However, some agencies like law enforcement can still access expunged records.Getting old marijuana offenses expunged removes barriers to jobs, housing, education, and loans caused by a criminal record. Many expungements happen automatically when marijuana is legalized. But it still helps to consult an attorney to ensure the process goes smoothly.

When is a Marijuana Defense Lawyer Most Critical?

While a lawyer is always recommended when facing marijuana charges, here are some situations where having expert legal counsel is especially critical:

  • You are facing felony marijuana distribution or trafficking charges – The penalties are severe so early representation is key.
  • You have prior marijuana convictions – Repeat offenses lead to harsher sentencing so a lawyer is needed to minimize penalties.
  • You are charged with a marijuana offense in a new state – Every state has unique laws, so a local lawyer familiar with those laws is important.
  • You are charged with a marijuana offense as a minor – Diversion programs and record sealing options are often available for minors that a lawyer can obtain.
  • You are an immigrant facing marijuana charges – Immigration consequences can be severe, so consult an attorney versed in both criminal and immigration law.
  • You are arrested for marijuana possession at an airport – Airport marijuana crimes can lead to federal charges, so expert counsel is needed.
  • You are charged with a marijuana DUI – Complex laws govern driving under the influence of marijuana, requiring an experienced lawyer.
  • You are facing a marijuana probation violation – Probation violations can mean incarceration, so a skilled lawyer is needed to advocate for you.

Any marijuana charge can carry life-long consequences. But these situations increase the legal complexity and potential penalties, making skilled legal defense vital.

Can I Get a Public Defender for My Marijuana Case?

If you cannot afford a private attorney, you may qualify for a free public defender to represent you in your marijuana criminal case, depending on your income level and the charges.Public defenders are attorneys appointed by the court to represent defendants who cannot afford private counsel. They handle everything a hired lawyer would do like negotiating plea deals, filing motions, defending at trial, and advocating for reduced sentencing if convicted.The judge will determine if you are financially eligible for a public defender at your first court appearance. Be prepared to disclose your income, assets, and expenses. If approved, a public defender will be assigned to your case.While public defenders are often highly skilled at marijuana defense, hiring private counsel allows you to choose an attorney with specific expertise relevant to your case. But for those unable to afford private counsel, public defenders provide free legal representation.

Finding the Right Marijuana Crimes Lawyer

If you are facing marijuana charges, it helps to find an attorney with specific experience successfully defending cannabis cases including:

  • Marijuana defense background – They should have extensive experience handling marijuana possession, sale, trafficking, and distribution charges. Check their case results.
  • Local experience – Find a lawyer familiar with the marijuana laws and prosecutors in your jurisdiction. Laws vary greatly between states.
  • Trial experience – If your case may go to trial, find a lawyer with experience arguing marijuana cases before juries.
  • Negotiation skills – For plea deals and reduced sentencing, pick a lawyer who has successfully negotiated marijuana cases with prosecutors before.
  • Cannabis industry knowledge – If your case involves medical marijuana or the recreational industry, find a lawyer familiar with those nuances.
  • Record expungement experience – To clear your record down the road, choose a lawyer who has gotten past marijuana convictions expunged.

Take time to research marijuana defense lawyers’ background and credentials. Be sure to ask about their specific experience with cases similar to yours. The right lawyer makes all the difference in avoiding penalties for marijuana offenses.


Marijuana laws remain complex and constantly evolving. Even as marijuana becomes legal in more states, you can still face strict criminal penalties for marijuana possession, distribution, or use in the wrong circumstances.Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer is critical whenever you are facing marijuana charges to protect your rights, avoid convictions, minimize penalties, and expunge records down the road. Be sure to seek counsel early in the process for the best results. The costs of skilled legal representation are small compared to the lifelong burdens of a marijuana conviction.With an attorney guiding you through the complex legal system, educating you on the process, and advocating on your behalf, you have the best chance of a favorable resolution that avoids the stigma of a permanent criminal record. Don’t leave your future to chance. Consult a marijuana crimes lawyer right away if you are facing any marijuana-related charges.