Exercise your 6th Amendment Right - A strategic move toward Drug War reform.

Discussion in 'Marijuana Legalization' started by GougeAway1, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. #1 GougeAway1, Mar 13, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2012
    Hi Grasscity members,
    I recently read an article in The New York Times that got me thinking. The article talks about a woman who is pushing people to always exercise their right to a trial by a jury of their peers, given by the 6th amendment. Her point is actually extremely valid, especially when considering laws against marijuana. There is no denying that at this current point in time, the government, does in fact, make a profit from marijuana related arrests. States are even given federal grants if they meet certain marijuana related arrest quotas. I'm sure everyone has heard stories of police unlawfully stopping people, tricking them into showing their marijuana publicly, and then arresting them. Police have even admitted to planting marijuana on people just to meet these quotas. It is pretty clear then, that this drug war is motivated my monetary gain.

    Even if you don't agree with what has just been said, (not really sure that's possible though) the following still applies. In New York City, the city with the most marijuana related arrests in the world, over 50,000 arrests are made each year. Can you imagine 50,000 trials had every year over simple marijuana possession? The time and money the government would have to put into all that is ridiculous, and more likely than not, the government agrees. How then does the court system manage to do this? The answer is quite simple...nobody goes to trial. Most marijuana offenses are given a DAT (Desk Appearance Ticket) and a deal is made between the judge and defendant and the cases never goes to trial. The whole thing takes up hardly any time and the defendant walks away with an ACD, a small fine, or some community service.

    I'm going to use New York as an example because that's where I live and where there is the most marijuana related arrests. The most common type of arrests made in this regard are PL 221.05 and PL 221.10 and are as follows:

    Most people never fight these cases, accept the deal they're given, and walk away with an ACD or slight punishment much less than these laws dictate. Many people who don't take their case to trial even have a 0% chance of being convicted. For example, in a marijuana related offense, in order to be convicted, the court would need to have corroborated that the substance found was, in fact, marijuana by having a lab test done. For a misdemeanor, they have 2-6 months to get this lab test done but the funny thing is for a violation, such as PL 221.05, they have exactly 0 days to have the lab test done, making it pretty much impossible to be convicted for this offense. Thing is, this offense is hardly ever taken to trial since most just plead guilty and take their deal. Why would someone risk being criminally convicted after a failed trial attempt if they can get out easy this way?

    So here's the part that could help towards legalizing marijuana. The court only gets away with this because nobody uses their right to a trial because it makes more sense to just plead guilty and take a deal. If everyone remained strong and insisted on an actual trial instead of ending it at the DAT, as Susan Burton from the article said, the entire system would collapse. If even half the people charged with marijuana offenses took the risk and exercised their 6th amendment right, the government would have to seriously reconsider the way it deals with marijuana.

    Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of the prisoner's dilemma. If you don't already know what that is, look at this Wikipedia page. It's a very simple and easy concept to understand. In order for this work, a huge amount of people would need to ask for a trial, and in would indeed be in their overall best interest to do so. However, if only a few people do it, their cases will mostly likely end much worse than if they pleaded guilty and took a deal at their DAT.

    I'll finish by saying that I am not advising anyone to not take the deal they're given and insist on a trial. It would be a very risky thing to do, and would most likely, not end well. However, a huge amount of people all doing this honestly seems to me like the best chance of having marijuana legalized in the near future. Chances are, nobody would actually take this risk and the courts will never have to deal with this problem. Name one successful revolution though, that didn't involve any risk. The methods to push the US to legalize marijuana are there, but we'll all need to do more than put a bumper sticker on our cars to ever actually succeed.
  2. "There is no denying that at this current point in time, the government, does in fact, make a profit from marijuana related arrests."

    I know what you're saying here, but I think profit is the wrong word. "Incentive" may be a better word. The fact is that while a city like NY may be raking in money for MJ arrests, some other part of government is paying for that incentive and of course ultimately, it's the tax payers that pay the price.

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