What to do if I recently was cited for a paraphernalia charge and I have court in the next couple days?

Although I was cited for the paraphernalia there wasn’t any actual drugs in the vehicle. I am a currently a full-time student receiving financial aid. This is a first offense What plea would you advise I take? Also, would it aid me to show evidence that I am a productive member of society (school transcript)? If I do plead not guilty and are found guilty in the end, is it likely that the judge will be harsher?

Asked on February 4, 2013 under Criminal Law, Ohio


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Overall, the first thing to keep in mind is that if you are not guilty.... don't pled guilty.  If you are, then your mindset should be damage control and what is the best deal that you can work out.  Because this is your first time offense and you are younger, you may qualify for some type of diversion program whereby you do an informal probation and then they dismiss your charges.  This is not offered in every jurisdiction, but it is something that you should ask about.  Trying to earn a dismissal will be better for your criminal record and college career.  Some financial aid programs will disqualify students with drug related convictions and you don't need to risk your current or future financial aid options.   It will help if you can show your transcripts and that this was an isolated lapse in judgment, but it would be better if you had an attorney help you communicate this information.  Any time you talk to the prosecutor about your case, they can then in turn use your direct comments against you later at trial.  They cannot use the attorney's comments because they would be considered part of plea negotiation.  You would want to find a criminal defense attorney to help you.  Many now take payments and credit cards.  If you simply cannot afford one, then ask the court to appoint one for you.

As far as trial goes, the general attitude of the judge will determine whether or not the judge will be harsher on punishment if you are found guilty.  Some will and some will not--- a local defense attorney will be able to give you a better gauge of what will happen.  At this point, however, you want to avoid a trial (unless there is a hole in the proof and evidence), and see if you can work out a dismissal or some other plea that could result in a better record.

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