So you got a “civil ticket” for your possession of marijuana under 20 grams and the officer was “cool” and did not arrest you. The ticket advises you to pay a fine at the clerk of court and you will never have to appear in front of a Judge. Clients have even told me that it would not go on their record. Which raises the question: Do you want to take legal advice from the individual charging you with a crime?
You friends tell you that you will save the expense of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney.
So what’s the catch?
First, you got charged with a criminal offense of Possession of Cannabis Less than 20 grams. Second, it’s on your record, therefore when you go to the courthouse and pay your “citation” your record will indicate that you pled “no contest” to a criminal offense. The disposition will reflect a withhold of adjudication 1, which will stay on your record unless and until you file a Petition to Seal. Guess what?
That costs money!
This may have adverse consequences in your future. It will need to be explained to law and or medical schools. Background checks will show the disposition. Prosecutors will use it against you in the future when they determine an appropriate punishment. It will preclude any Pre-trial Diversion Intervention Programs which actually result in the “dismissal” of your charges. Removal (expungement) of this
charge from your record will take significantly longer to accomplish. Finally, it may have been a tough case for the State to prove but you forfeited your opportunity to contest the charge with the payment of the fine.
That is not to say that payment of the fine is never appropriate. Conviction for Possession of Cannabis will result in a Florida Driver’s License Suspension. First-time offenders traditionally received Diversion offers or withhold of adjudication. Either of those resolutions protects the offenders driver license from suspension. Repeat offenders normally get adjudication of guilt. Therefore, if your record is extensive, AND an attorney has at least met with you, reviewed the evidence, and made a determination that the State has a solid case it would be beneficial to pay the fine and get the withhold.
1 Judge Perry signed an Administrative Order stating that payment of the fine will automatically result in a withhold of adjudication.