In today's world, everything lives on forever on the internet. Even if something is taken down, or found to be false, there's always the Wayback Machine. If it's not saved there, people may have taken screenshots. News releases, arrest notices, mug shots. It all lives on. Even when deleted, there's no way to know for sure that it's 100% gone. Subsequently, if you're arrested for alleged minor offenses, your life could still be severely impacted, even if the charges are later dropped.
Minor Offenses with Major Impact
Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, according to S.B. 3, which Governor Wolf signed on April 6, 2016. However, recreational marijuana remains illegal. In July, the York Daily Record wrote an article about three men who'd all been arrested for possession of weed in Pennsylvania.
Justin Stineman, Kolton James, and Josh Janes are all from different towns in Pennsylvania, and they all hold one thing in common: minor drug charges with a life-changing impact. Police arrested each of the men, and then issued a news release. Issuing a news release has become a fairly standard process for many law enforcement agencies. Often these news releases include mugshots. Speaking to the York Daily Record, one police chief, Todd Graeff, “stated that the department posts about everyone who gets arrested, citation and above, on its Crimewatch page. “It's a transparency of what's going on, and it's what the people want, at least the majority,” he added.”
More than two years after his arrest (and the case being dropped), Stineman's picture and the news release remain online. He told the newspaper that it has affected his ability to find a job. Kolton James shared that he lost customers at the jewelry store where he worked, and now works at a warehouse. Josh Janes eventually moved to Florida, where he was able to get a job—something he'd been unable to do in his town in PA after his arrest. All of these men experienced collateral consequences.
Collateral consequences are the effects of a conviction or charge even after you've paid associated fines or served a sentence. For example, although possession of under 30 grams of marijuana only carries a penalty of up to $500 fine or up to 30 days in jail, a conviction follows you. Applying for a job or renting a home can be more challenging due to criminal background checks and questions on applications. Some colleges or schools can be more difficult to get into, and minor criminal charges can potentially impact financial aid. Additionally, if you are charged with one crime (even if it's a minor offense), later charges can carry more severe penalties.
Don't let a minor offense impact your future. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the challenge and will best understand how to protect your rights. Joseph D. Lento brings many years of experience to the clients he works with and a passion for defense of their rights. If you or a loved one is facing a minor offense, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or contact us online and we can answer any questions.