On September 30, 2019, the acting Marion County Prosecutor, Ryan Mears, announced that his office would no longer prosecute certain marijuana possession offenses. Mears affected this change in an effort to divert resources to more pressing causes like jail overcrowding and violent crime. Notably, the vast majority of marijuana possession cases in Indianapolis have been dismissed in the past few years and this announcement by Mears merely turns what has been a matter of practice into an actual policy.
As with any big news story, it was quickly distorted, resulting in a significant amount of confusion as to just what the Prosecutor’s announcement meant.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s new policy is not a de facto legalization or even a decriminalization of marijuana. Individuals can still be prosecuted for a host of marijuana-related offenses within the confines of Marion County; however, those who are in simple possession of less than one ounce will not face any formal charges from the Marion County Prosecutor. Any other marijuana-related offenses that may be committed, such as driving while under the influence of marijuana, are still going to be pursued and charged by the prosecutor’s office.
Will Police Still Arrest You For Possessing Marijuana?
Additionally, this was a unilateral announcement from the Marion County Prosecutor and, at least at this time, does not demonstrate a change in approach from the police departments operating in Marion County. Possession of marijuana is still illegal statewide and federally, and officers who reasonably believe someone has committed that offense can arrest that person. It is not uncommon for officers to recommend charges that the prosecutor ultimately does not file, and an announcement that a certain offense will no longer be prosecuted does not prevent police departments from making arrests for that offense.
In fact, shortly after the announcement, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department announced that they would continue to enforce marijuana possession laws “as proscribed by the State of Indiana.”
So, while police officers may continue to arrest you if you have any amount of marijuana on your person, after this announcement from Mears, you can take solace in the fact that you will not have any new criminal charges waiting for you post-arrest, at least for now. Mears, or whoever takes the lead of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, may always reverse this policy at any time. Without legislative action, policies such as this can be implemented and rescinded whenever the office wants.
It is important to note that this change affects Marion County only. If you are in any other county in Indiana with any amount of marijuana on your person, you are at risk of being charged with possession no matter how small of an amount it may be. Possession of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
If you are charged with a marijuana-related offense in Marion County or elsewhere, Keffer Hirschauer LLP is here to assist you. Call (317) 857-0160 for a consultation about your case and see what we can do to help you!