By CHRIS BLANK
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri lawmaker pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia Friday during a brief hearing in a central Missouri courtroom.
Democratic Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, of Kansas City, was fined $200 for each misdemeanor charge and ordered to pay court costs. After his hearing, LaFaver said he had paid about $500. The first-term legislator said he is sorry about the choices he made.
"I'm glad that this is behind me," said LaFaver, 33.
The two misdemeanor charges stemmed from an August traffic stop by the Missouri State Highway Patrol while LaFaver was driving home from a weekend House Democrats meeting in St. Louis. The highway patrol said LaFaver was stopped on Interstate 70 near Columbia for failing to respond to a charge in Moniteau county of driving with an expired license tag and without insurance. During the traffic stop, the patrol said LaFaver was found to be in possession of a marijuana pipe and up to 35 grams of marijuana. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charges was a fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.
LaFaver said Friday he obtained the marijuana from an acquaintance in St. Louis, who is not a fellow legislator. LaFaver won election to the House this past November and said he plans to complete his two-year term and hopes to seek re-election.
Earlier this week, LaFaver also wrapped up the legal issues from Moniteau County. He was fined $125, including court costs for failing to register his vehicle. The charge for driving without proof of insurance was dropped after he showed proof the vehicle was insured.
Immediately following the arrest, LaFaver said he was resigning as chairman of the House Democratic Victory Committee, which raises money for Democratic House candidates. Before joining the Legislature, LaFaver worked as a lobbyist for various children's advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union.
During his first term, LaFaver co-sponsored unsuccessful legislation this year that sought changes to Missouri law dealing with marijuana. The legislation would have reduced penalties for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia to a misdemeanor with a fine of no more than $250. It also would have created a "strong presumption" that the sentence should be suspended for community service or drug counseling.
Under the bill, law offices would have been directed to issue court summons instead of arresting people who have small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.