• Jay Kalasnik

How A Little Weed Can Destroy Your Life

Tom (not his real name) was entering his senior year in college excited about graduating and entering the graphic arts field. He was a talented artist, sociable and intelligent with every reason to believe he was a few months away from beginning an exciting career as a graphic arts professional. This promising outlook was nearly destroyed by three grams of weed (that's about 1/10 of an ounce). Like many people his age, Tom was a casual marijuana user. He occasionally smoked it socially and discreetly among people he thought were good, trustworthy friends. Tom was a star of the high school volleyball team, participated in the Big Brother program helping young boys in need of strong mentors, and was respected by his teachers and professors. His occasional smoking had not inhibited his achievement.

One day one of Tom's friends, ("Dan"), asked for a little weed. Tom obliged, giving the friend about three grams for a few dollars. The money was simply to reimburse Tom for what the weed cost him. Tom thought nothing of it and nearly forgot about the little transaction over the next weeks.

Sometime later the police visited Tom and arrested him, charging him with felony delivery of illegal drugs. You see, even though the amount of marijuana Tom gave Dan was miniscule, because Tom accepted payment for the weed, he committed the same crime that "professional" drug dealers are charged with. The amount of weed sold was irrelevant. He sold it, and that was that. How did the police find out about the sale? Dan had been previously charged with a drug offense and told by the police that he could "work off" the charge by tricking someone else into selling drugs, even a little weed. So, Dan tricked Tom into selling a little weed while under police surveillance.

The great career and exciting new life that Tom was expecting was suddenly hanging by a thread. There was no legal defense to what Tom had done. The police were now pressuring Tom to work undercover for them as Dan did so they could arrest more people. Tom simply didn't want to go that risky route, so he came to Kalasnik Law Office, LLC for help.

Tom had no prior criminal record. Other than his foolish recreational use of weed, he was an exemplary young man. The police were unsympathetic except to say that if he worked undercover for them they might reduce his charge. Even so, he'd be left with at least a lifetime misdemeanor criminal record involving drugs. The district attorney prosecuting the case was even less sympathetic saying that if Tom plead guilty to the felony drug charge he would recommend two years of probation - no jail time - but Tom would again be left with a lifetime felony drug record. This would have destroyed his chances for his dream career as a professional graphic artist. It would also have severely handicapped Tom in pursuing many other types of employment.

The situation looked bleak. I grappled with the prosecutor, trying to negotiate a reduction in the charge so Tom could at least plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. After all, if Tom had simply been found in possession of three grams of weed instead of selling it for a few dollars, he could get thirty days of probation and have his misdemeanor record expunged. No such option for felony drug "dealing" like this. The hard-hearted prosecutor wouldn't budge.

Finally, I went over the prosecutor's head straight to his boss, the county's First District Attorney. I laid out the entire situation without making excuses for Tom's unlawful conduct but arguing that the punishment simply didn't fit the crime. The punishment was, of course, much more than two years of probation, it was a ruined life for someone who promised to be a productive citizen in a budding professional career. Thank God, I touched a soft spot in the District Attorney's heart. He agreed to let Tom plead guilty to a lesser charge, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, which was eligible for expungment after serving a short probationary sentence. Tom was ecstatic and I was thrilled for him.

The first moral of this story is don't break the law no matter how stupid, unfair, or illogical you think it is. The law is the law and, if you are caught breaking it even in an extreme situation such as Tom's, you may suffer severe consequences. Even if you don't go to jail, a criminal record will come back to haunt you many times in your life.

The second moral of the story is don't deal with the police, prosecutors or the court by yourself. These people are not your friends if you are accused of a crime. They want to see you charged, convicted, and punished - end of story. Get an attorney. Only your lawyer will fight for you as I did for Tom. Lawyers are not miracle workers and hiring one will not guarantee that everything bad will go away. But a lawyer is trained and experienced in using every proper method and tool possible to help you, and having a lawyer will nearly always assure better results than not having one.

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