Carl O. Snowden, civil rights chief for the Maryland attorney general's office, was charged in Baltimore District Court with marijuana possession Friday — the same day he announced a voluntary leave of absence from his job — according to online court records.

He was under court supervision for a drunken-driving conviction at the time of the arrest, and could face 60 days in jail if Anne Arundel County prosecutors pursue a probation-violation charge against him.

"We are confident that Mr. Snowden will not be found guilty," Snowden's lawyer, Carey J. Hansel III, said in an emailed statement. "This is such a small amount that such minimal possession is a minor misdemeanor," Hansel said, adding that another man was in the car with Snowden when he was arrested.

Hansel did not address the possibility of a probation violation and provided no other details about the incident. Police said a statement of charges chronicling the arrest would not be available until Monday.

Snowden also announced Friday that he planned to take an unpaid leave of absence from the attorney general's office to pursue a lawsuit against Anne Arundel County. In a letter outlining his intent to sue, Snowden said he suffered emotional distress caused by the recently indicted County Executive John R. Leopold, who allegedly ordered a security team to create a dossier on the civil rights activist.

Snowden's attorney said he plans to file the lawsuit within two weeks, but would settle it out of court for $20 million.

David Paulson, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Snowden's leave of absence took effect Friday.

"Anything involving the [marijuana possession] charges as reported will not be handled in any way by the attorney general's office," Paulson said.

Snowden was placed on three years' probation in early 2011 after being convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol on Route 97 near Farm Road in Anne Arundel County in June 2010. He was given a suspended 60-day sentence, which could be reinstated if he's found guilty on the marijuana charge. His trial in that case is set for May 3.

"Carl Snowden has spent a lifetime in the civil rights struggle and this nonissue will not distract him from continuing the fight," Hansel said in his statement.

"The few remaining anti-civil rights stalwarts will seize on this nonissue to attempt to criticize Mr. Snowden and detract from his many accomplishments. Anyone who does so will soon be embarrassed as the facts develop and Mr. Snowden is not found guilty."

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

twitter.com/triciabishop

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts