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Alternative Sentencing for Maryland Drug Charges

Maryland drug lawyer Kush Arora answers questions about alternative sentencing and rehabilitation in Maryland drug cases.

How willing is the court to consider alternative sentences such as rehabilitation?

Kush Arora: The intent of most of our judges in this court system is not necessarily to jail individuals when they are charged with a first time offense of possession of marijuana or even something else. In the state of Maryland, most of those cases are eligible for diversion, which means that instead of getting involved in the case and determining guilt or innocence, the court takes the case out of the judge’s hands and allows the prosecution and defense to come to an agreement that is mutually acceptable that will keep the case out of criminal court. The charges could potentially be dropped or dismissed if the defendant obeys certain conditions. Those conditions could involve making charitable contributions to an organization, participating in drug education classes, doing community service, or all of the above. That is usually an option for individuals who are charged as first-time offenders in most situations. The court recognizes that there are certain situations in which a person does not need to be slammed with a criminal record, be sent to jail, or endure other serious consequences as a result of a one-time lapse in judgment. However, the court does enhance those penalties and look at individuals in a more negative light if they are charged with multiple offenses.

People who are multiple offenders might receive a fine or have to undergo more extensive drug treatment or lengthy periods of probation, and perhaps years of incarceration. These rules generally apply to individuals who are charged with simple possession cases. With cases involving felony possession, possession with intent to distribute, or actual distribution of a controlled substance, the court will make a decision regarding the particular punishment.

For example, an individual that is presumed to be selling drugs to support their own habit for that particular drug might be viewed very differently than an individual that was selling a particular drug for personal gain and benefit. A judge might be more inclined to grant the individual who has an addiction treatment as opposed to jail time and might be more likely to send the individual who was selling drugs to make money to jail because they would be seen as a menace who is corrupting the community. The alternatives to sentencing vary on a case by case basis. It depends on what the court views the impetus was for the action, whether an individual has a record or not, and how likely it is that treatment will help that individual recover from the addiction issues they are facing. Judges are usually amenable to those kinds of opportunities to keep a person out of jail on the first or second offense for a drug-related crime. However, if the individual is not getting the message, many judges will use jail as a tool to communicate the illegality of the person’s actions.