Marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. If you’re caught with even a small amount, you’ll be arrested and charged. If a juvenile has been charged with underage marijuana possession, the rules are a little different. Find out what happens when you’re underage with a marijuana charge below.
How Much Marijuana?
A lot will depend on the amount of marijuana the juvenile was arrested with. Was it enough for “recreational use,” or is there enough to constitute distribution? Is the minor using it with friends, arrested with others who were using it, or carrying an amount that may indicate distribution?
North Carolina considers a “small amount” to be a half-ounce or less, and calls it “simple possession of marijuana.” No jail time is involved for a first offense, and it is a misdemeanor, but there is a $200 fine. If you’re in possession of more than that, up to 1.5 ounces, it is still a misdemeanor, but carries a $1,000 fine and up to 45 days in jail. If someone is caught with more than 1.5 ounces, up to 10 pounds, they‘ll be charged with a felony, given a $1,000 fine and spend as much as 8 months in jail.
A juvenile caught selling or trafficking marijuana will face harsher penalties and much higher fines.
The Juvenile Court System
North Carolina considers a “juvenile” as someone under the age of 16. They are usually relegated to the juvenile justice system for minor crimes, such as shoplifting, vandalism, underage drinking, and other criminal mischief. If a minor is charged with a more serious or violent crimes, they will likely be tried in the adult criminal court system.
While adults and juveniles are subject to the same laws, the court system treats them differently. North Carolina’s juvenile justice system is focused on punishment as well as rehabilitation before adulthood. Whether this is your child’s first (and hopefully only) brush with the law, or is considered “troubled,” we will make sure he or she is treated fairly and that the juvenile’s rights are respected.
The “delinquent” juvenile is one who has committed a crime, including traffic citations. The “undisciplined” juvenile is one who frequently misses school, runs away from home, has been caught in places they shouldn’t be (i.e., bars), and is not within the discipline of parents, custodians or guardians.
The Court Process For A Marijuana Charge
Unlike adult court, there isn’t a jury trial. The judge makes all the decisions in juvenile criminal cases.
Juvenile court judges have a broader selection of choices for younger offenders. Since the preferred outcome is rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, the judge can order the offender to attend drug counseling with his or her parents. Other options include:
· Probation—similar to adult probation, the juvenile can be ordered to return to school, get a job (if he or she is old enough), perform community service, enroll in drug and/or family counseling, or a number of other conditions. Probation typically lasts six months or longer, and there may be a probation officer involved, but not always.
· Diversion—another form of probation, with many of the same rules, but the juvenile does not have to go before the court. If he or she successfully completes diversion, the charges are in essence, dismissed. This option reserved for first-time offenders and is not available everywhere.
· Detention—this is where the juvenile is incarcerated in “juvenile hall” or another type of confinement, and used for repeat offenders. Confinement may include placement with a foster family, juvenile home or a juvenile detention facility. Drug possession as the result of another crime is also a factor in a detention ruling. Depending on the seriousness of the charges, he or she may be required to stay until the 21st birthday, significantly impacting college admissions.
Many juvenile offenses can be expunged after a certain period, usually after probation, diversion or detention is completed. Until then, random drug testing, searches without warrants, electronic monitoring, and other restrictions may be placed on the individual for the duration.
One Mistake Can Last Forever
Underage marijuana charges can tarnish a teenager’s chances at college admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and military enlistment. It can limit the types of vocations they can pursue later, and show up on background checks for jobs, apartments and loans. Fortunately, first-time offenses can be expunged, or removed. An experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer can help you through the process and explain the options.
Juvenile Criminal Defense in Raleigh
Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you and your child through the court process, defend your child against drug charges and work for a more reasonable sentence. Call the law offices of Dewey Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your child’s case at (919) 832-0307.