To protect children from drug activity, lawmakers established “protected zones” around places where children were most likely to be present. If you are caught with marijuana or any other drug within 1,000 feet of let’s say a school or day care center, you face substantially higher penalties than others who are found guilty of the same crime.
If you are in New York, walking around with any amount of weed within protected zones may be dangerous, why? The ‘Stop and Frisk’ law allows law enforcement officers to stop you and search your pockets. If you are found with any amount of marijuana or any other drug, you may face class B felony charges.
What are “Drug-Free Zone Laws”?
Drug-Free zones depend on state law, but generally, you are in a Drug-Free zone if you are within 1,000 feet of the following areas:
- Child-care facilities.
- Any school, public or private, of any level-from preschool to university.
- Shopping malls, sports facilities, arenas, playhouses, theaters, movie houses or parking lots or structures adjacent thereto.
- Portions of any building, park, stadium or other structure or grounds which are, at the time of the act being used for an activity sponsored or by through a school or institution.
- In the presence of a minor regardless of where the act occurs.
- Childcare facilities
- Churches or places of worship.
- Recreational centers, public parks, and amusement parks.
What are the Penalties?
If convicted of drug-free zone offenses you face:
|California||1,000 ft. schools||Possession w/intent, delivery, sale, manufacture||3-5 years|
|Florida||1,000 ft. daycare centers, public housing, parks, universities, schools||Possession w/intent, delivery, sale, manufacture||3-year mandatory minimum|
|New York||1,000 ft. schools, daycare centers.||Trafficking||Class B felony|
|Texas||1,000 ft. child care centers, parks, arcades, recreational centers, amusement parks, universities and schools||Possession w/intent, delivery, sale, manufacture||5-year maximum sentence|
|Utah||1,000 ft. child care centers, parks, arcades, recreational centers, amusement parks, universities and schools||Possession w/intent, delivery, sale, manufacture||First-degree felony|
|South Carolina||2,640 ft. child care centers, parks, arcades, recreational centers, amusement parks, universities and schools||Possession w/intent, delivery, sale, manufacture||Up to 10-year sentence|
|Vermont||500 ft. schools, school buses||Sale, distribute||Up to 10-year sentence|
Check your state law here.
Should you Fight Drug-Free Zone Laws?
Cannabis or marijuana is a schedule I drug, because of that, if you are caught with it within drug-free zones, there is the possibility of doing serious time behind bars. The question is, should you admit guilt or should you fight the charges when arrested?
It is worth noting that, the severity of drug charges increases by the amount of the drug and its classification. For example, if you are caught with more than 10 pounds of marijuana, you may face felony charges and the penalties are up to 6 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. That punishment may include additional incarceration, a lengthy mandatory sentence with no chance for probation if you are caught within a Drug-free zone.
Pleading guilty or choosing not to fight the charges is a bad idea, why?
I am not saying that you are guaranteed to win, what I’m saying is. If you find yourself a good lawyer, there is a possibility that you might walk away a free man. But, fighting these charges can take months or even years and lots of money. So talk to a lawyer before you say anything to the police.
To save cash or to avoid spending cash on a case you lost, you should find a lawyer who accepts payment on contingency i.e. you only pay if he or she wins the case.
The thing is, majority of police searches are warrantless, however, police officers are only allowed to stop and search you only if they have “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed or are committing a serious offense or are in possession of weapons, illegal drugs, stolen goods or weapons.
If the arresting officer can’t prove reasonable suspicion, the evidence collected will be excluded in court and the case will probably collapse. On the other hand, if you admit or confess to the crime, you will end up behind bars or on probation depending on the amount you are caught with.
If you are stupid enough to walk around with marijuana or any other drug in plain view in a drug-free zone, you make things very easy for the police.
In simple terms, if you have marijuana on you, don’t engage in “suspicious activity”.
Some suspicious activities that may get you searched and arrested include:
- Loitering around parks, schools or secluded places.
- Loitering in a neighborhood you don’t live in.
- Going door to door.
- Unusual activity involving a vehicle, for example, sitting in your car closely scanning the area possibly looking for buyers.
Suspicious behavior is not easy to define, but, don’t do anything out of the ordinary if you have marijuana on you within a drug-free zone. To avoid trouble, always keep the amount of weed on you or in your vehicle below an ounce or the legal amount in your area.
If arrested, exercise your right to remain silent until you speak to a lawyer. Although some public attorneys are very good at their jobs, you don’t get to pick. Meaning, you may end up with an inexperienced lawyer who may do nothing to help you. the best advice I can give you, check your lawyer’s experience and reputation before you go to court.