A recent Gallup poll showed more than half of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, more than ever before. And with state and local budgets being stretched thin, some communities are seeing a tendency for law enforcement to let pot possession slide without official criminal charges. According to the Sun-Times, this trend has led to a virtual decriminalization of pot within the city of Chicago.
In 2010, more than 23,000 people were arrested by Chicago police for misdemeanor marijuana charges. Most of those cases were dropped. The less amount of pot you had when you were busted, the more likely you were to get your case dropped. Of cases involving less than 2.5 grams between 2006 and 2010, 97% were dropped. Those involving more than 2.5 grams and less than 10 were dropped 84% of the time and those with 10 to 30 grams were tossed out 57% of the time.
One-hundred to 150 people face petty pot charges every day in Cook County and as of yet, state leaders haven’t suggested any weaker penalties for these offenders. At the local level, however, a group of aldermen proposed an ordinance allowing police officers to ticket those caught in possession of a small amount of marijuana. Police and prosecutors seem to be working on a similar solution.
The proposal from local aldermen would allow for a $200 ticket to be issued by city police. They are expected to introduce the measure this week at a City Council meeting. It would apply to only those cases where less than 10 grams was found and would save an estimated $80 million per year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel only says, “I want to have a comprehensive look at it before I make any decision.”
The process of arresting someone, booking them, and bringing them to court only to drop the case seems like a waste of time and money and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says she is looking at how other cities handle such cases to come up with a “smarter policy”. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has already come forward recommending the police stop arresting for small possession charges because of the cost.
Under current laws, marijuana possession less than 2.5 grams is considered a Class C Misdemeanor and carries up to 30 days in jail and fines reaching $2,500. As stated, these cases are usually dropped and even those that are dropped rarely result in jail time.
If you are charged with possession, whether in Chicago or outside of the city, we may be able to help. Not all cases are dropped and a criminal record is something that should be avoided at all costs. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and what we may be able to do.