This is the second in this new series I’m starting in which I try to convey the essential nature of particular types of people in their dumbest and most stupid sense. As I said before, I’m sure these people have mommies that love them and all that but they really have to learn how to live their lives better.
Without further ado, let’s get down to the silly low-level drug offenders we all fondly know as pot heads. You probably understand what I’m talking about, but let me explain for everyone else. By low-level drug offender I mean the skinny punk in basketball shorts or the wasted nobody in a baseball hat that got pinched with pot because they pissed off their ex-girlfriend. I’ll save the dealers and the couriers for later because they’re special in their own ways. In fact, I have a couple of classic examples of really stupid drug couriers that deserve their own posts.
Anyway, back to my story. Here where I live we have decriminalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. For your first conviction you plead guilty to a violation and pay a $50 ticket. A violation, mind you, is what we classify minor offenses like speeding or spitting on the sidewalk. I rarely see these guys because they don’t see the need to pay me a $1,500 retainer just so I can show them where to pay the $50 fine. For their second through umpteenth offenses the fines get more expensive and they have to pretend to pay attention in drug treatment. Eventually the guys who keep getting the minor violations start learning to smoke at home and don’t carry any around outside. They’re still just violations, though. We treat jaywalkers like criminals out here, people, not pot heads.
I know, I know. Someday we will end the pot prohibition and we will all sit around lighting up a doobie with our glass of Glenmorangie, neat. I doubt I’ll light up but I’ll bet you’re grinning like it’s almost Christmas. I’ll take the scotch, though. Pot heads probably deserve their own special blog, just for themselves. I mean really, how can I not spend hours telling you funny stories about the stupid stuff pot heads do? It’s not just tie-dye t-shirts and Birkenstock sandals these days, folks. Well it still is for some people but I’m telling you that my informal survey of drug behavior leads me to believe pot is moving more mainstream. Mainstream means lots more people doing it and that means lots more material for me. I know Nancy wanted us to just say no but many of us are just saying yes, dude.
I’m actually kind of conflicted about pot. You see the thing is that pot is a pretty strong system depressant. You take it and you just zone out. You don’t have to go to Tommy Chong’s shows to know pot smokers chill out on the sofa all the time. Yeah, I admit I went to one of his things a couple of years ago. It was funny. But really, why do we care if a bunch of guys who would otherwise be out getting drunk and starting bar fights are home watching the weather channel and eating Doritos?
As a lawyer you’re really only going to bump into three kinds of pot heads. As I said above, you’re not going to get too many of the college kids worried about their $50 ticket. No, what’s far more likely are the pot heads caught up in the two main drug offenses, the ones we fondly know as the “homegrower” and other unfortunate one I call the “sharer.”
Just as you probably suspect, the homegrowers are a secretive lot although they come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the time they’re at least in their late 20’s because they have to invest a little bit of money in their grow operation. They’re usually trying to grow their hashish in their basement or one of the spare bedrooms and it can get expensive. Plus, young kids can get it cheaper on campus with less mess at home in the apartment they share with five other guys. Have you ever seen a college kid remember to water that plant their grandparents gave them when they went off to college?
The police reports on homegrowers are marvels of descriptive writing. They’re obviously having a lot of fun. “The walls were covered with three separate layers, with each layer alternating in tin foil, plastic wrap, and brown paper. It did a good job keeping out our invisible rays.” When they’re not trying to write my blog for me, the cops are waxing poetic describing the ingenuity of using the landlord’s rain gutters under the plants to recycle the water. They’re constantly amazed at the CO2 systems. What’s that all about, you ask? Pot plants love a little burst of strong CO2 at just the right moment. It helps them give that last couple of percent of THC to the bud. The homegrowers buy little gas tanks and arrange the systems with such care that you know they would have been brilliant engineers if they weren’t so high all the time.
Most of your homegrowers will come wandering in your office looking put upon by a system that they say is out to get them. It’s just wrong, dude, they’re going to keep saying. They’re going to try to tell you about how the US Constitution was written on hemp paper. Quite a few are going to show up high. You can safely play with those ones a little if you want. They’re incapable of doing much if they get upset anyway. If they offer you a ‘Legalize Pot Now!’ bumper sticker, take it. They’re fun to put on a senior partner’s car when she isn’t looking.
Handling a homegrower’s case is either pretty easy since the cops have lots of pictures for proof or pretty hard because you have to battle it out over a bad search warrant. A fair number of them go up on appeal on the legal issues involved in kicking in some guy’s door and holding his little kids at gunpoint in the kitchen. Make sure you offer to do his appeal. You can charge another $5,000 to write the brief using all the same research you used to write the motion. Don’t worry. Your client is going to be too high to notice you’re double billing.
Handling a sharer’s case is much simpler but it almost always requires a jury trial. These cases come down to testimony, and that means a lot of luck.
You see, sharing cases are common but kind of unique. As I already said it’s just a violation to smoke a little bit of dope in your car. It’s not even a crime. But if your buddy sitting next to you asks for a hit, you better make sure nobody’s watching. By handing it to him in this state you commit the crime of distribution. That’s right, you’re suddenly treated the same as a drug dealer. Maybe not as harshly imprisoned but try getting a job when you get out. Do you think hiring managers are going to try to tell the difference?
These guys usually get arrested in a parking lot during their lunch break or in the bleachers at a concert. Somebody smells the smoke, the cops find the joint, and a security guard fills out an affidavit swearing they saw your client hand it to his friend.
So how do you defend these guys? It’s really hard to pull something out of your ass with these ones. The cops separated them during the arrest. They told the other guy he’s going to prison unless he tells them truthfully where he got the dope. He always points his finger at your client. Later when your investigator talks to him he’s going to know your guy got the serious felony distribution charge. There’s no way in this world that he is going to say the pot was his. Its going to come down to whether the jury believes that guy bought the weed or your client did. It’s not like you’re going to subpoena some records from Wal-Mart to show who bought the dime bag. At least not yet. I’ll bet they’re planning lots of low, low prices on ganja as soon as its legal. They already have their stores all over Mexico so lining up suppliers won’t be too hard.
What you end up doing for these guys is burning through the retainer prepping witnesses for trial and then spending two days cross-examining the store security guard and the other witnesses in trial. There’s no way your client is going to get anywhere close to the witness stand so all you have to do is stay awake and try to point out flaws in the State’s case. There aren’t going to be any, so I guess you have to put your energy into keeping a bland look on your face the whole two days. Your client is going to spend a little time in the county jail so after trial you’re going to have to make all kinds of arrangements with his job, girlfriend, child support services, wife, etc. Bring in his boss at work just in case you can arrange work release. These cases aren’t that challenging.
The bored housewife
There is a third kind, but they’re really rare. These ones are the 40+ year old women who watched some rom-com movie and decided they want to have a little fun. They’re sort of like the women who drink a little Tequila and then their clothes fall off. They are absolutely mortified they got charged. They don’t want anyone to know they’re even coming in to see you. They cry the whole first hour. You’re going to sit back in every office meeting for long breaks while their motor mouth goes on and on about how this is not like them at all.
The only upsides of working their cases are:
- They can pay you a lot;
- They have no criminal history and they’re 40+; and so therefore
- Their cases are super easy to settle.
You are going to bring the prosecutor a bunch of letters from the community about how good the woman is and how much they love their kids. The prosecutor is going to pretend to think about it for a week before offering a misdemeanor deal to something chippy like attempted disorderly conduct and a stern warning about staying out of trouble. She’s going to be completely thankful and cry while she holds your hands across your desk. She’s going to want to pray with you. Then every time you see her at the grocery store or the mall for the next five years she’s going to have a minor coronary and act like you have the plague.