A new report, compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union and based on federal data, has revealed that a racial disparity exists among marijuana arrests across the country. The study looked at marijuana arrest rates in each of the 50 states, data that was obtained from police records. The researchers involved in the study then compared arrest rates of both black and white Americans.
The study revealed that black Americans are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans. In fact, in 2010, black people were four times more likely to face marijuana possession charges in the United States than white people. Despite this racial disparity, the number of people of both races who use marijuana is reportedly very similar.
Some have contended that this disparity is due, in part, to law enforcement agencies that stress obtaining a goal of a certain number of arrests each year. In some cases, those performance metrics are used to determine which agencies will receive federal grants. These quantitative goals in practice encourage police officers to focus on making arrests for less serious crimes in poorer areas. According to a psychology professor at the University of California, this focus allows the officers to bring in a large number of arrests at a faster rate than if they were focused on other, more serious offenses, such as felonies.
Fight marijuana charges in Utah
Across the country, the number of Americans who use marijuana has increased in recent years. In 2002, 6 percent of Americans reported they had used marijuana during the past month – in 2011, that figure had risen to 7 percent. In addition, the arrest rate for possessing marijuana has increased in past years.
The consequences of a marijuana possession conviction in Utah vary, depending on the quantity of the drug found in the individual’s possession and the number of prior convictions. For instance, those who are found in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana face class B misdemeanor charges. If convicted, the individual can be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined up to $1,000.
The penalties are the highest for those found in possession of over 100 pounds of marijuana. Those who are convicted of such a felony marijuana possession charge can be sentenced to between one to 15 years in jail and receive a fine of up to $10,000.
As the consequences for a marijuana possession conviction in Utah can be severe, seeking the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney is a prudent step to ensure the individual accused of the crime has a strong defense.