Starting in October, individuals found with small amounts of marijuana can complete community service instead of being arrested.
Pinellas County has launched a new program called the Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program. Under this new program, individuals who commit minor offenses, including marijuana possession, underage possession of alcohol, and petty theft may complete community service and educational courses rather than being arrested, serving jail time, or paying expensive fines.
For a first-time offense, an individual must complete 24 hours of community service as part of the program. For a second and third offense, the individual must complete 32 and 48 hours of community service, respectively.
In addition to community service, participants in the program must complete an educational course on substance abuse, anger management, or shoplifting.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri asserts the Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program is both fiscally and societally beneficial for numerous reasons. With a price tag of $360,000, the program is expected to be cost substantially less than going through the court system. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), states waste over 3 trillion dollars enforcing marijuana laws each year.
Over 8.2 million marijuana arrests were made nationwide between 2001 and 2010. Over 50 percent of those arrests were for minor marijuana possession. This program affords many people a second chance and an opportunity to avoid a criminal record.
Lastly, society also benefits. Rather than having non-violent offenders serve jail time, these individuals are giving back to the community in the form of community service.
Pinellas County joins other Florida counties, including Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Broward County, to offer alternatives to incarceration for misdemeanor marijuana possession. The marijuana laws and ordinances across Florida are constantly changing. If you have been cited, arrested, or charged with marijuana possession it is crucial to consult an experienced marijuana defense attorney to discuss all of your legal options.
Melinda Morris and Seth Shapiro are experienced Pinellas County marijuana defense attorneys. For years the attorneys of the Morris Law Firm, P.A. have been advocating and protecting the rights of individuals across Florida and Pinellas County, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and surrounding areas.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession, marijuana trafficking, marijuana cultivation, or any other related offense, contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free consultation