By Van Smith
Baltimore, Feb. 21, 2019
Courthouse News Service‘s Edward Ericson Jr. has discovered what wasn’t immediately apparent about the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office’s move, announced with fanfare in January, to strike thousands of past pot-possession convictions the office previously had fought for: that the effort will be complicated, thanks to the realities of Baltimore crime.
Ericson looked in detail at 10 percent of the 1,050 Circuit Court cases the Baltimore prosecutors aim to reverse, and found nearly half had “a least one conviction for a violent crime either prior or subsequent to pleading guilty to pot possession.”
That many pot-possession defendants also faced other charges is no surprise: when cops make arrests for guns or assault or drug-dealing, they’ll often throw into the mix whatever charges the evidence lets them, such as, say, having a little weed in addition to crack and a gun. Such facts add particularized nuances to the process of reversing each individual pot-possession conviction, as lawyers and judges will need to hash out how the charge fits into the larger picture, with possible repercussions at sentencing or for probation violations.
Full disclosure: Ericson is a former longtime colleague of mine.