Possession and Distribution of Drugs in Virginia
Many drug-related crimes carry extremely heavy jail sentences and fines. If you are ever convicted of a drug crime, that conviction may stay on your record for the rest of your life and could affect your ability to get a job, a loan, or even an apartment. For this reason, any time you're facing drug crime charges or have been arrested for drug offenses, it's important that you take the time to consult with a drug crime defense lawyer who can give you a better understanding of the charges you are facing, your constitutional rights, and your legal options.
Drug crimes are heavily penalized as the recreational use of pharmaceuticals and controlled dangerous substances often has a ripple effect on society. Drug abuse and addiction often result in additional crimes which place the property, lives, and the well-being of others at risk. Drug offenses are addressed in Chapter 7 of the Criminal Code of Virginia, cited as “Crimes Involving Health and Safety.”
In 2012, the Virginia State Police obtained reports of more than 55,400 various drug and narcotics offenses. Within this classification, there are a number of charges which are associated with drugs and the use thereof:
• Drug possession
• Possession of drug paraphernalia
• Drug manufacture
• Intent to distribute
• Drug trafficking
• Driving under the influence of drugs (DUI)
• Refusal to submit to chemical testing
• Prescribing/dispensing illegally
• Possession of a firearm while under the influence of drugs
The laws and associated penalties are harsh on drug-related offenses, even for first-time offenders. In some cases, a non-violent or first-time offender has legal options for avoiding a conviction. A Virginia defense attorney is familiar with options for strategic defense, charge reduction, and other ways to limit the legal, personal, and professional impact of drug charges.
Controlled Dangerous Substances
The penalties for the possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) directly correlates to the substance’s propensity to cause physical and psychological dependence and the severity of side effects. Larger quantities and subsequent offenses also result in harsher consequences.
The Drug Control Act, specified in the Code of Virginia § 54.1-34, provides the classification of Controlled Dangerous Substances. Herein, each CDS is ranked, from a Schedule I drug, being the most heavily penalized, to a Schedule VI drug, which may result in less severe punishment for CDS possession.
Possession of a Schedule VI drug involves prescription medications which the Virginia Drug Schedules fail to otherwise classify. It is a Class 4 misdemeanor offense to be found in possession of a drug of this caliber, and the penalty involves a fine of $250. Similarly, possession of a Schedule V drug is a misdemeanor, however it is elevated to a Class 3 offense. Codeine-based cough syrups make up the majority of Schedule V drugs, and if found in possession of such, the offender is subject to a $500 fine.
At the level of Schedule IV drugs, which includes depressants of the central nervous system or tranquilizers such as a possession offense is elevated to a Class 2 misdemeanor which carries not only a maximum $1,000 fine, but may also result in up to 6 months (or 180 days) in jail.
Hydrocodone, codeine, and anabolic steroids are a few types of narcotics classified as Schedule III drugs. Possession of a Schedule III CDS is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and the penalty for such an offense is up to 12 months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
While the maximum fine for possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug is the same as that for a Schedule III drug, the term of imprisonment increases greatly. If convicted for possession of such substances as ecstasy, heroin, acid, cocaine, or methamphetamines, the crime is classified as a Class 5 felony which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Marijuana Laws in the Commonwealth
In Virginia, marijuana is a legal substance if prescribed for a legitimate medical need. The subject of medical marijuana is addressed in the criminal code under § 18.2-251.1, citing cancer and glaucoma treatment as legally-viable uses for the drug. When used for recreational purposes or distributed or sold by means other than valid prescription, marijuana use and possession most often leads to misdemeanor charges, but can be classified as a felony offense in such a case as the quantity in possession is greater than half an ounce and there is an intent to distribute.
Aside from alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is the most commonly used recreational drug, estimated to have been used by more than 100,000,000 people at one time or another. While driving under the influence (DUI) is often associated with drinking and driving, Virginia DUI laws apply to driving while under the influence of drugs, as well. Even though many consider the drug harmless and carry on regular day to day activities while under the drug’s influence, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated. If an individual is caught driving while impaired by marijuana or any other drug, he or she may be subject not only to fines and imprisonment for possession and use, but may also face additional fines, jail time, and license suspension as a result.
A first time offense for misdemeanor marijuana possession is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and maximum fine of $500. For subsequent offenses or distribution cases, the charges increase, carrying a longer jail term and more costly fines.
Virginia Drug Diversion
Substance abuse is often an indicator of an underlying physical, psychological, or emotional problem. Those who are charged with drug offenses face penalties such as jail, fines, license suspension, and more.
It is estimated that roughly 95 percent of all those imprisoned for drug-related crimes will fall back into substance abuse patterns in the absence of successful addiction treatment. That is why Virginia has developed drug diversion programs through which non-violent offenders may receive therapy, substance abuse training, and rehabilitation under court mandate. Non-violent offenders can seek real help for the root of the problem, rather than being fined and detained only to fall back into unhealthy habits once freedom is obtained.
Drug Crime Defense in Virginia
An experienced drug defense lawyer is knowledgeable about Virginia drug laws and knows effective sentencing options and defense strategies which apply to a variety of cases, from possession to distribution to DUI. For instance, in Virginia, even if a drug is found in a person’s vehicle or home, possession is not presumed based solely upon the ownership of the premises and the proximity to the substance.
If you or a family member or a friend, are facing drug charges of any kind, it is important to consult professional legal representation to obtain invaluable counsel that can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Please contact Naum Estevez, PLLC for a consultation today. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, Naum Estevez, PLLC may be able to help you obtain a favorable plea deal, help you prove your innocence, or even get the charges against you dropped completely. The key can be to act quickly, so call today.