The criminal penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana is the same as for other misdemeanors: Up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. However, while jail sentences are relatively rare for possession of small amounts of pot, the non-criminal, collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can be life-altering.
New Hampshire is an at-will employment state, which means that if an employer learns of a marijuana conviction, the employer can fire the employee for any reason or no reason at all. An employer that learns of a marijuana conviction does not need to offer any severance and the employee likely has no recourse against the firing. Further, New Hampshire has no laws governing what employers can ask you about your record of convictions that have not been annulled. It is perfectly legal for an employer to deny a job to an applicant because of a simple marijuana possession conviction.
Marijuana or other drug conviction can disqualify a student from obtaining a student loan under the federal student loan program, FAFSA. The FAFSA application specifically asks every student whether they have a marijuana or other drug conviction. Answering the question yes may make it impossible for the student to receive a loan.
A conviction for marijuana possession can cause the loss of a professional license or certificate. A conviction for growing as little as a single plant of marijuana can cause a person to lose his or her driver’s license.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
The prospect of civil asset forfeiture is every parent’s worst nightmare. Although sporadically applied, state and federal forfeiture laws can allow the government to seize money, cars and even homes of people whose property was used in a drug transaction. Making matters even worse, the burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings is not the heightened standard applied in criminal cases, but merely the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in car accident cases and other civil actions.
These consequences are just the tip of the iceberg. As you can see, the collateral results of a marijuana conviction are often more than they initially appear. While jail time for a first-time offense is unlikely, the fact of the conviction can often have significant collateral consequences. Before accepting what seems like a reasonable plea offer in a marijuana case, people accused of these crimes should consult with experienced criminal defense counsel such as Skip Campbell at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. Call us at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.