A North Carolina man was caught up in the confusion of Baltimore’s new policy on prosecuting people found possessing marijuana, his attorney said Thursday.
Drug charges were dropped Thursday against 30-year-old Dwight Chinyee, of Winston-Salem, N.C., more than a month after police arrested him for allegedly carrying 16 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his vehicle, his attorney Tony Garcia said Thursday.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced in January that her office would no longer prosecute people for possessing cannabis regardless of the quantity or the person’s criminal history. Since then, the specifics of the policy have become muddled as Baltimore police continue to make marijuana-related arrests.
Last week, Mosby said those arrested were being released quickly, usually without spending the night in jail.
However, that was not the case for Chinyee, who was held without bail from the time of his arrest Feb. 5, his attorney said. Garcia expected his client to be released Thursday evening.
“There were several factors that we initially considered that were supportive of the distribution charges in this case,” state’s attorney spokeswoman Melba Saunders said in an email. “However, after further review and investigation, our prosecutors determined that the facts did not extend beyond mere possession and decided to [nolle prosequi] the case prior to indictment.”
Nolle prosequi is a legal term meaning the formal notice to abandon prosecution.
Prosecutors and law enforcement’s inconsistent adherence to the policy sends mixed, dangerous messages to the public, Garcia said.
“This young man sat in jail, lost his job … essentially for nothing,” he said.
Garcia pointed to the portion of Mosby’s policy that stipulates individuals would not be charged “regardless of the amount.”
“What does ‘regardless of the amount’ mean?” he asked. “When you give that sort of message, but then at the same time arrest people because you say, ‘Oh, I think you have too much,’ then you’re basically setting people up to fail.”
The Maryland Transportation Authority’s police union president called the state’s attorney’s marijuana policy a “personal crusade” and slammed the decision to release Chinyee in a statement Friday.
“It’s incredibly disturbing that an Officer of the Court would release a suspect back on the street that had been arrested with such a large amount of illegal drugs,” union president James Kruszynski said in the statement. “Whats [sic] even more disturbing is the fact that nothing is being done to stop this from happening again.”
Kruszynski commended the officer for enforcing Maryland’s laws and expressed dismay that Chinyee “will go home without consequences.”
In February, 14 local advocacy groups called on Mayor Catherine Pugh to clarify Baltimore’s inconsistent enforcement of cannabis laws. The groups co-signed an open letter calling on the mayor to be “equally bold” with Mosby by compelling the Police Department to collaborate with prosecutors on the policy. The group asked Pugh to respond to the letter by Friday.