When a judge sides with you, as a defendant in a criminal case, it can be a relief. It can even feel empowering if the judge goes so far as to call out the police or prosecutor on mistakes they made in your arrest and prosecution. So, one Tacoma man likely feels a little bit of smug pride in the way his marijuana case has unfolded.
According to the Associated Press, as published by The Daily Chronic, Joseph L. Robertson was pulled over for speeding last May in Tacoma. He was cited for driving without a license and after cops discovered a small amount of marijuana, he was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Robertson is an authorized medical marijuana patient in the state of Washington. This paired with the fact that voters in the state of Washington decided to legalize possession of small amounts of pot in November led the marijuana charge to eventually be dismissed by the prosecutor in December.
Like any defendant whose property was unlawfully seized by the police, Robertson asked for his pot back. He showed proof of his medical marijuana registration, and with no criminal charges attached to the weed, assumed the police would hand it over. He was wrong.
The marijuana is now in possession of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, who operates the evidence room. Deputies there refuse to give Robertson his marijuana. They’ve stated that it is a city of Tacoma case and if the Tacoma police want to come get it and turn it over to Robertson, it’s their prerogative.
And a judge has ordered them to do just that.
Municipal Court Judge Jack Emery has ordered the city to return the marijuana or face contempt charges.
“Appeal or comply,” said Emery to the assistant city attorney on the case. “Or next week, show up, and I would advise you to bring counsel.”
Emery first made his order known in February, and the city has yet to comply. His patience is wearing thin and he has now attached a 7-day deadline and a threat to the order. Because the marijuana is no longer part of a criminal case, the city has no lawful right to it. Emery admits there is a conflict between state and federal law regarding marijuana, but as a state judge he is acting within the laws of Washington, not the U.S. federal courts.
It’s still possible to face marijuana charges in the state of Washington. And with some localities reluctant to respect the will of the voters, charges may be even more likely. Whether you are charged with distribution of marijuana or possession of another drug, we may be able to help.