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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Marijuana Possession Case..Up in Smoke?

I was in court recently waiting for my case to be heard and watched an interesting misdemeanor trial. It was a marijuana possession case where a respected Mecklenburg County defense attorney was contesting the fact that a substance found in a vehicle was actually marijuana. In Mecklenburg County, a substance seized by the police can take a year to be analyzed by the crime lab. There are far too many cases to test every substance seized by the police. In this case, the state prosecutor was relying on the officers training and experience to testify that the substance seized was actually marijuana. Is that enough? A Marijuana Possession Case..Up in Smoke?

Under the evidence code, all evidence introduced at trial must meet foundational requirements. An officer will testify in a marijuana possession case that he/she found a substance believed to be marijuana. However, before this statement is admissible, the witness must convince the court that they have enough experience to testify that the substance is actually marijuana. Recently, there have been a series of cases handed down by the appellate courts finding that an officer's testimony is not enough to prove a substance is actually an illegal substance- Alyson Grine of the UNC school of government does a great job with this summary.

The defendant in the above case was found not guilty. The prosecutions case was also weakened by the fact that the marijuana was found in the backseat of the car and the defendant was the driver.

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


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