When Bernard Noble was arrested in New Orleans in 2010 for possessing less than three grams of marijuana, he was sentenced to over 13 years in prison for the offense. It should be objectively clear that this sentence is an unjust response to a nonviolent, minor possession charge. However, because Noble had prior convictions, his sentence came about due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws in Louisiana.
The good news – if there can be any good news in such a story – is that the district attorney has reviewed the case and agreed to cut the sentence to eight years and make him eligible for parole as early as 2018. Though eight years is still not a fair response to a minor possession charge, the decreased sentence provides hope to Noble and his family as they move closer to the end of their separation.
But it is one case in many, many cases that demonstrate how ineffective mandatory minimum sentencing laws and how drug courts can not only help the individual to truly create positive change in life but also save Louisiana taxpayers millions of dollars.
Changing the Laws
Louisiana is a conservative state when it comes to the legal response to drug use and abuse. Marijuana is not legal, and it will likely be a very long time before that changes unless the federal government makes sweeping modifications across the board. In the meantime, however, the focus of many families in Louisiana that have members serving long sentences for drug possession is on trying to help their loved one stop using substances in order to avoid further trouble when they are finally released and hoping that minimum sentencing laws will change so other families do not have to suffer in the same way.
One way to manage the issue of people being in possession of illegal substances in small amounts is to refer the case to a drug court. Here, “offenders” can have the option to undergo treatment and get the tools they need to stop using substances of all kinds, connecting with resources that will better their lives along the way. In some cases, if they agree to this option, they can even get the charge wiped from their record. With the support of a case manager and access to treatment, they can actually move forward in life, build a new positive community with people who want to see them succeed, and connect with other people who are making similar positive changes in their lives.
In jail, their addiction issues are not treated, and they only connect with others who are engaged in crime, building connections to a world that they would be better off without. When they get out, they have even fewer options than when they went in: years of separation from family and relationships to rebuild plus a lesser ability to find employment or a home due to their legal record. When Louisiana more routinely implements drug courts, more people will get the help they need and repeat offenses will not occur, which would diminish the number of people put in the position of being subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
The Risks of Drug Possession
Drug possession is a serious crime that can lead to a variety of legal and personal consequences. Here are some of the risks associated with drug possession:
Possessing illegal drugs can result in criminal charges, which can lead to fines, probation, and even jail time. The exact consequences will depend on the type and amount of drugs found, as well as the laws in your state.
Drug possession can also have personal consequences that can impact your life for years to come. For example, a drug conviction can make it difficult to find employment, housing, and even financial aid for college. It can also strain relationships with family and friends.
Drug Possession Laws Across States
It's important to note that drug possession laws vary across states. While some states have decriminalized marijuana possession, others still consider it a serious crime. Additionally, the consequences for drug possession can differ based on the type and amount of drugs found.
For example, in California, possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is considered an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100. However, possessing more than one ounce can result in misdemeanor charges and up to six months in jail.
In contrast, in Texas, possessing any amount of marijuana is considered a criminal offense. Possessing two ounces or less can result in misdemeanor charges and up to 180 days in jail, while possessing more than four ounces can lead to felony charges and up to 99 years in prison.
It's important to research the drug possession laws in your state and understand the potential consequences associated with it. Being informed can help you make better decisions and avoid unnecessary legal troubles.
Drug Possession Charges Vary Depending on the Type and Amount of Drugs Found
It's important to understand that drug possession charges can vary depending on the type and amount of drugs found. For example, possessing a small amount of marijuana may result in less severe consequences than possessing a larger amount of cocaine.
In most states, drug possession charges are broken down into different categories based on the type and amount of drugs found. These categories typically include:
Simple possession refers to the possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use. In many states, simple possession is considered a misdemeanor offense and can lead to fines, probation, and even short-term jail time.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute refers to the possession of drugs with the intention of selling or distributing them. This is considered a more serious offense than simple possession and can lead to felony charges, which can result in longer jail sentences and larger fines.
Aggravated possession refers to the possession of large amounts of drugs or possessing drugs in certain locations such as near schools or public parks. This is also considered a more serious offense than simple possession and can lead to felony charges with severe legal consequences.
It's important to note that drug laws are constantly changing, so it's crucial to stay informed about your state's current laws regarding drug possession. Understanding these differences can help you make better decisions and avoid unnecessary legal troubles.
The Consequences of Possessing Drugs with Intent to Sell versus Personal Use
Possessing drugs with the intent to sell or distribute them is considered a more serious offense than simple possession for personal use. If you are caught with drugs that law enforcement believes you intended to sell, the consequences can be severe.
In most states, possession with intent to distribute is considered a felony and can result in significant jail time and fines. Additionally, if you are convicted of this crime, it can have long-lasting effects on your life. You may find it difficult to obtain employment, housing, or even financial aid for college.
On the other hand, if you are caught with drugs for personal use, the consequences may be less severe. In many states, simple possession is considered a misdemeanor offense and can lead to fines, probation, and short-term jail time.
It's important to note that even though possessing drugs for personal use may result in less severe consequences than possessing drugs with intent to sell, any drug conviction can have negative impacts on your life. It's crucial to understand the risks associated with drug possession and make responsible decisions when it comes to drug use.
What to Do if You are Caught with Drugs
If you are caught with illegal drugs, it's important to know what to do next. Here are some steps you can take:
Being caught with drugs can be a scary experience, but it's important to remain calm and cooperate with the authorities.
Know Your Rights
You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It's important to exercise these rights to protect yourself.
Seek Legal Advice
It's important to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options and navigate the legal system.
The Potential for Rehabilitation and Recovery After a Drug Possession Conviction
While drug possession can have serious legal and personal consequences, it's important to remember that rehabilitation and recovery are possible. If you've been convicted of drug possession, there are resources available to help you get back on track.
One option for those struggling with addiction is drug treatment programs. These programs offer a range of services, including counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and group therapy. They can also help connect individuals with other support services, such as housing assistance or job training.
Additionally, many states offer alternative sentencing options for non-violent drug offenses. These alternatives may include diversion programs or drug courts, which focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
It's important to remember that recovery is a process and it takes time. However, with the right support and resources, it's possible to overcome addiction and move forward in a positive direction.
If you or someone you know has been convicted of drug possession, consider reaching out to local resources for help. It's never too late to start on the path to recovery.
Treatment, Treatment, Treatment
Addiction is a chronic disease. Continued substance use that creates negative consequences is a substance use disorder. There are medical and psychological treatments and therapies that are research based and have been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of the disorder. For no other disorder is it routine to incarcerate someone. Changes in the justice system to reflect the fact that addiction is widely recognized as a treatable disorder and not a punishable offense is essential.
In the meantime, family members who are watching their loved one struggle with addiction are encouraged to intervene as soon as possible. The sooner that someone connects with treatment services, the sooner they can begin the process of recovery – and it is a process. It can take time to learn new, healthy coping skills and to effectively put drug and alcohol use in the past. Starting that process as early as possible can help to decrease the likelihood that the justice system will play a role at all and that incarceration for drug use will ever be an issue.
How Addiction Treatment Programs Can Help
Addiction treatment programs can be a valuable resource for individuals struggling with drug addiction and can also help them avoid future drug possession charges. These programs typically involve a combination of therapy, counseling, and medication-assisted treatment to help individuals overcome their addiction and regain control of their lives.
By addressing the underlying causes of drug addiction, these programs can help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and reduce their risk of relapse. This, in turn, can help them avoid future drug possession charges by breaking the cycle of addiction that often leads to drug-related criminal activity.
In addition to helping individuals overcome their addiction, many addiction treatment programs also offer resources and support for legal issues related to drug possession charges. This may include assistance with navigating the legal system, finding legal representation, or accessing alternative sentencing options such as drug courts or diversion programs.
Overall, addiction treatment programs can be an effective way for individuals to not only overcome their addiction but also avoid future drug possession charges by addressing the root causes of their substance abuse and providing them with the tools they need to stay on track in their recovery journey.
Drug possession is a serious crime that can have severe consequences. If you are caught with illegal drugs, it's important to remain calm, know your rights, and seek legal advice. By understanding the risks and consequences of drug possession, you can make informed decisions and avoid putting yourself in harm's way.