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420 Legal Risks if You Partake Today

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It's 420 today: the unofficial pot-smoker's holiday that's observed annually on April 20. (Despite rumors to the contrary, marijuana remains illegal under federal law -- today, and every day.)

Why "420"? Explanations abound, but the Huffington Post traced the term's origins to a group of California high school buds who would meet at 4:20 p.m. to search for an abandoned plot of pot plants, way back in 1971.

More than 40 years later, there seems to be a growing tolerance for marijuana nationwide; two states, Colorado and Washington, will vote on decriminalizing pot in November. But partaking in the drug can still come with pot-ential legal consequences.

Possible consequences of 420 include:

1. A citation or warning.

In most states, possession of any amount of marijuana can result in criminal charges. But if you're caught with a miniscule amount, the police officer may let you go with just a citation or warning.

You may still need to appear in court for the citation, however. Consulting an experienced criminal lawyer may help get your case dismissed and eventually expunged from your record.

2. Probation or community service.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana is usually a misdemeanor -- but each state defines "small amounts" differently. A misdemeanor possession conviction could result in fines and jail time, but if it's your first "420" offense, a judge may opt to sentence you to community service or probation instead.

3. Fines and/or imprisonment.

A marijuana conviction can result in fines, which vary widely by state and could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for more serious offenses.

On top of a fine, a judge can also sentence you to prison. This is especially true if you're convicted of selling marijuana, which can come with a life sentence some states.

4. A driver's license suspension.

If you're convicted for a marijuana-related offense, some states will automatically suspend your driver's license for a certain period of time. That's another sobering reason to speak with a defense lawyer to ensure the best possible outcome for your marijuana case, whether it happened on 420 or not.

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