I have a new client who received a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia. She had planned to just pay the ticket, hoping that her parents would never find out.
Fortunately, her mother did find out and they came to visit me. Thank goodness they did!
If this young lady had paid the ticket, she would have had all sorts of negative things happen that would have been much worse than her mother finding out about her involvement with marijuana.
"Collateral Consequences" is a phrase that describes other stuff that happens as a result of an action. In the case of just paying the ticket in a PODP case, here are the direct and collateral consequences:
- Paying the ticket is actually a guilty plea that results in a final conviction,
- A final conviction stays on your record forever,
- Some JP courts are courts of record, whose records are easily available and publicly searchable,
- The court will make you pay a fine of up to $500.00,
- Your driver's license will be suspended for 180 days,
- In order to get your license back you have to complete a 15-hour drug offender education class,
- You will have to pay a reinstatement fee to get your license back,
- If you want to drive you will have to get an occupational license which requires you to pay filing fees and obtain an SR-22,
- A drug paraphernalia conviction is likely to be considered a "drug conviction" for federal student aid purposes, which means no federal grants or loans,
- Many private schools or colleges have codes of conduct that prohibit drug activity so a person could be expelled or denied entrance into the school of her choice,
- Future employers and housing providers will likely look at criminal history to determine whether to hire someone or let them rent housing.
How to Deal With Drug Paraphernalia Charges
The worst thing to do is to pay the ticket and hope no one notices. They will. Instead, a person charged with this type of conduct needs to deal with the matter head on.
An attorney can work on your side to make the entire process as painless as possible. You may avoid ever having to appear in court.
The attorney will reach out to the prosecuting attorney and get more information about the charges. He will then try to negotiate for a dismissal of the charges. Maybe the arrest was wrongful. Maybe someone else is responsible and the client is not. Maybe the "paraphernalia" is not paraphernalia at all. There are many legal and factual approaches an attorney can use to try and get a case dismissed.
Ultimately, however, even if a prosecutor will not dismiss the case outright it is still oftentimes still possible to get a case like this dismissed after performing some tasks. In most Central Texas municipal and JP courts, it is generally possible to arrange a deal where the person takes a class, maybe also does some community service, and the paraphernalia case is then dismissed.
If you think about why we have these criminal drug laws, most people would agree that we should not punish people for no reason; instead, most prosecutors will even agree that paraphernalia charges are a tool to address the issues of a person with a possible drug problem early, before they pick up a full blown drug charge. A prosecutor usually won't want to mark a person for life with a drug conviction if they can instead send them to a class which will hopefully educate the person and help them head in a more constructive direction in their life and maybe even stay away from illegal drug use.
While actually dealing with the issue will certainly involve the up-front discomfort of telling your mom you got busted, and of doing a drug education class, dealing with the matter will be far less painful in the medium and long run than trying to avoid it by paying the ticket.