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Common Drug Offenses in Maryland
The following is excerpted from an interview with Maryland drug lawyer Kush Arora in which he answers questions about common drug charges and offenses in Maryland.
Which drug offenses are most commonly charged in Maryland?
Kush Arora: The most common drug offenses that I see are simple possession, and usually simple possession charges involve marijuana. Maryland sees thousands of simple possession cases of marijuana on a yearly basis, primarily in small amounts that a person is carrying on their person. Many times the substance is discovered by a police officer after the suspect has been subjected to a search. Other drug offenses that we see are simple possession of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. Occasionally, I see cases in which somebody was carrying a controlled substance, but it was a larger amount that is usually associated with distribution or intent to distribute. Distribution offenses are usually classified as felonies, whereas possession of smaller quantities that are associated with personal use is are classified as misdemeanor offenses.
How does the type of drug involved affect the severity of the charge and the potential sentence?
Kush Arora: When somebody is charged with simple possession of marijuana, the offense carries anywhere from 90 days in jail all the way up to 12 months in jail. When somebody is charged with simple possession of a substance other than marijuana, the minimum penalty associated with that could be anywhere from no jail time up to four years of executed incarceration. The maximum jail term is much longer for other substances than it is for possession of marijuana. There are also differences in the penalties for felony distribution offenses depending on whether the drug was marijuana or something else. The maximum penalty for distribution of marijuana is far less severe than those associated with the distribution or possession with intent to distribute of hard drugs.
How does the amount of the drug affect the charge and potential penalty?
Kush Arora: When it comes to simple possession of marijuana or a small amount of marijuana that is on an individual’s person, the quantity is going to impact the maximum penalty because there is a difference between carrying less than 10 grams of marijuana versus more than 10 grams of marijuana, even if it is an amount that constitutes personal use. A person who is charged with possession of 12 grams of marijuana, for example, will be subject to a maximum penalty of up to one year of incarceration, as opposed to somebody who was in possession of eight grams of marijuana, which has a maximum penalty only up to 90 days. There is a difference in the penalties associated with particular possession charges depending on the kind of controlled dangerous substance an individual has in their possession. I don’t usually see that in drug possession cases involving other controlled dangerous substances besides marijuana. This does become relevant in cases involving felony possession where cases start to involve higher quantities of a controlled, dangerous substance. High level distribution cases end up in federal court as opposed to state court and are dealt with in a very different way. They involve much more severe penalties and mandatory minimum sentences.
Are there certain restricted areas that can lead to harsher sentencing for drug charges, such as schools or parks?
Kush Arora: There are restrictions on where people can be charged with drug possession in order to be in a less serious sentencing posture. If somebody is near a school zone, that would be considered a violation, particularly if the person was not just in possession but was also attempting to distribute or had intent to distribute. The penalties are more significant for people who are near a school zone. There are other limitations as well, such as certain public facilities including airports and other places where somebody might be subjected to enhanced penalties. For the most part, when an activity is impacting people that are of vulnerable nature, particularly children, there is the possibility of an enhanced penalty.