Even in states with some of the harshest pot laws in the country, there is still a good chance that a first time offender will get off with fines and probation.
We see reports all of the time where a driver, presumably with a pocket full of marijuana, leads police on a high-speed chase in an attempt to keep from getting caught with said marijuana and dragged to jail by the hair of his (or her) chin. There’s no denying it: cannabis users living in prohibition states are still afraid of getting busted with weed.
And it makes all the sense in the world, too, considering that the penalties for pot possession in some of these areas are still pretty ridiculous. It can mean significant fines, criminal charges and, in some cases, a bunk in the state penitentiary. So, heck yeah, whether it is a smart move or not, marijuana users have been known to run from the cops if they think even for a second that this could be their fate.
But evading police can bring about more trouble than marijuana possession ever could. In fact, any driver that speeds away from police, perhaps screaming something like, “Catch me if you can, coppers,” is at risk of getting slapped with multiple felony charges depending on how the event shakes out.
This is a crime known as evading, fleeing, or eluding law enforcement officers. And depending on which state it happens in, the driver would be better off receiving small-time marijuana possession charges all day than incur that wrath. It’s one of those situations where, sure, the motorist might get away from police, but they probably won’t. Statistics show that making a successful getaway is difficult, even in the largest cities in the United States. Remember, there is strength in numbers, and a motorist is always going to be outnumbered when up against any police force.
“People are always going to try and get away, but it is pretty hard to escape,” Greg Meyer, a retired Los Angeles police captain and pursuit training expert, told the Los Angeles Times.
Still, it is worth noting that the prosecution is going to need substantial evidence before it can throw the book at someone for this offense.
Although trying to escape after an officer sets his or her sights on you is always considered a no-no, a nervous driver with weed in his or her pocket probably isn’t going to get nailed just for exiting the street when a cop gets behind them. The laws are different in each state, yet most dictate that cops use flashing lights or even a siren before a motorist is required to stop.
If the driver flees, however, it really all depends on how the event goes from there that determines how they will be charged. In some states, a motorist on the run might catch a misdemeanor charge if their actions somehow don’t involve anyone else. But it’s easy for that charge to see a felony upgrade. It goes without saying that any motorist who endangers or kills an officer or anyone else on the road while fleeing is in deep trouble. A felony conviction for this offense can mean years in prison and fines reaching $100,000. Even misdemeanors can come with jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
And what about that marijuana charge?
Fat chance of it getting dismissed or even considered for a palatable plea-bargain if the fleeing charge sticks. The courts don’t take too kindly to motorists endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens. That goes triple if someone actually gets hurt or killed. The prosecution will go for the jugular.
All in all, it is never a smart move for someone in possession of marijuana to run from the cops. Even in states with some of the harshest pot laws in the country, there is still a good chance that a first time offender will get off with fines and probation. That is as long as the amount discovered in your vehicle doesn’t constitute trafficking. That’s a whole other story. Typically, prosecutors will work with those caught in possession of small amounts of weed (under two ounces). But if you do happen to mess up and run, make sure to contact an attorney once you are caught.
Trust us, you are going to need one.