Assembly Ends Marijuana Arrests


The Kentucky General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law, the Criminal Code Reform legislation, HB 463. The new law changes marijuana possession from a class A misdemeanor to a Class B. It further reduces the jail time a person can be sentenced to under a Class B misdemeanor from 90 days to 45 days. The Senate changed the bill further by adding more exemptions to a rule that limits when a police officer can make an arrest. Under certain conditions, officers will have to issue a citation rather than make an arrest.
The bill requires officers to issue a simple citation when they witness the commission of a misdemeanor except in cases involving violence in which the defendant poses a risk of danger to himself or others, weapons possession, sexual abuse or failing to comply with an officer's instructions.
As reported in the blog, 'Marion County Line', "Possession of marijuana will remain a misdemeanor but police will no longer arrest people for misdemeanors unless they also have a weapon, are physically threatening, driving drunk, or having sex."
The significant paragraphs in the Senate bill are as follows-
(1) (a) KRS 431.005 to the contrary notwithstanding, and except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection, a peace officer shall may issue a citation instead of making an arrest for a misdemeanor committed in his or her presence, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person being cited will appear to answer the charge. The citation shall provide that the defendant shall appear within a designated time.
(b) A peace officer may make an arrest instead of issuing a citation for a misdemeanor committed in his or her presence if the misdemeanor is:
1. A violation of KRS Chapter 508 (assault, terroristic threatening, stalking, etc.), 510 (sex abuse, sodomy, indecent exposure, etc.), or 527 (weapons charges), or KRS 189A.010 (DUI);
2. An offense in which the defendant poses a risk of danger to himself, herself, or another person; or
3. An offense in which the defendant refuses to follow the peace officer's reasonable instructions.
Regarding the DUI provision... Will driving while smoking pot trigger an exception to the new law and result in an arrest? Looks like the answer is no:
"A peace officer may make an arrest ... if the violation is: ... KRS 189A.010," which states:
(1) A person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state: ...
(d) While the presence of a controlled substance listed in subsection (12) of this section is detected in the blood...
(12) The substances applicable to a prosecution under subsection (1)(d) of this section are:
(a) Any Schedule I controlled substance except marijuana;

At long last, significant reform and steps in the right direction. It is encouraging to note that State Senator Gerald Neal called the bill, "an important first step". The legislators during the floor debate also discussed passing a Phase 2 bill next year. On top of that President Obama remarked recently that legalizing marijuana was an "issue worth debating".
Perhaps, if we call and write and encourage our legislators to pass a medical marijuana bill for Kentucky, one of our legislators will have the courage to do so during the next session. The time to start pleading our case is now!

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