Why It Is Important to Understand Virginia’s Drug Laws

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In Virginia, criminal drug charges result in either misdemeanor or felony penalties. This depends on many factors including the type and quantity of the controlled substances involved, as well as intent to distribute or sell.

Often, the evidence and circumstances around a controlled substance crime are highly subjective and left open to interpretation. This is why it is essential to have an attorney that understands Virginia’s drug laws and what constitutes possession under the law.

Our experienced attorneys are here to help you with every aspect of your case. Our Virginia drug lawyers possess extensive experience fighting controlled substance charges in both state and federal court.

Their in-depth knowledge and understanding of Virginia’s drug laws can help you obtain the best outcome for your case.

Marijuana Possession Crimes

It is illegal to knowingly and intentionally possess marijuana as stated by Virginia criminal code 18.2-250.1. However, the discovery of marijuana in a building or vehicle does not necessarily establish a crime by the owner or any occupant.

This is only one factor in determining possession and does not create a presumption that the owner “constructively” possessed or exerted dominion and control over the illegal drug–constructive possession is a legal phrase indicating that a person, based on the facts and circumstances, exerted dominion and control over drugs not in the person’s actual possession and is therefore guilty of possession (a person, for example, may constructively possess drugs in a trunk and be guilty of possession if the facts demonstrate the person in fact owned or exerted dominion and control over them).

In many drug cases, we have prepared detailed pleadings explaining the relevant case law on constructive possession, comparing it to our client’s facts, and arguing why the client  must be exonerated of drug possession because of the existence of a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. Pleadings are tailored to the facts of each client’s case whether the case results from numerous kilos of narcotics found in a tractor trailer wagon or a few grams of marijuana found in a vehicle.  A sample pleading in a simple marijuana possession case can be found here.

Constructive possession cases occur frequently and understanding the caselaw governing these situations can be critical to obtaining an acquittal or reduced charge.

The penalty for marijuana possession in Virginia is a misdemeanor and can result in up to $500 in fines and no more than 30 days in jail. A second violation will result in a Class I misdemeanor, up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

Increased Penalties for Sale/Cultivation of Marijuana

Individuals who possess marijuana with the intent to sale and or distribute it, or individuals who cultivate marijuana will face higher penalties according to Virginia criminal code 18.2-248.1.

  • Less than .5oz results in Class I misdemeanor, $2,500 in fines, and up to 1 year in jail.
  • .5oz-5lbs results in a Class 5 felony, up to ten years in jail and $2,500 in fines.
  • More than 5lbs results in a felony, 5-30 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Anyone who violates the code three times is subject to 5 years-life in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.

[Related: Federal Criminal Defense]

Virginia’s Drug Laws for Controlled Substance

It is illegal for citizens to possess any controlled substance without a prescription from an authorized health care provider (Virginia criminal code 18.2-250).

However, possession charges, as mentioned above, cannot be established based solely on the discovery of a controlled substance in the owner’s dwelling or vehicle without more–there have to be circumstances indicating the controlled substance is under the dominion and control of the person.

Penalties vary depending on the type of drug involved. Our attorneys can discuss this in-depth with you.

  • Schedule I or II- Class 5 felony, $2,500 fines, 10 years in prison.
  • Schedule III- Class 1 misdemeanor, $2,500 fines, 1 year in jail.
  • Schedule IV-Class 2 misdemeanor, $1,000 fines, 6 months in jail.
  • Schedule V- Class 3 misdemeanor, $500 fine.
  • Schedule VI- Class 4 misdemeanor, $250 fine.

Distribution/Manufacture of Controlled Substance

This is a more serious offense than possession. Virginia criminal code 18.2-248 states that it is illegal to give, sell, distribute, cultivate or manufacture a controlled substance. It is also illegal to possess such large quantities that you can be found to have intent to sell or distribute.

Individuals found with more than 100 grams of heroine (or heroine mix), 10 grams of methamphetamine (or 20 grams of methamphetamine mix), or 500 grams of cocaine or cocaine mix, are subject to a felony, 5 years- life in prison, and up to $1 million in fine. These cases also have a 5-year minimum incarceration with absolutely no parole during that time.  There are some increased penalties for even larger amounts of drugs.

For lesser quantities, penalties vary.

  • Schedule I or II- Felony, 5-40 years in prison, $500,000 in fines (a court does have the authority to suspend any sentence and place the person on probation). Second time offenders face this same penalty but three years of the five sentence is mandatory. Third time offenders face this penalty with a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence.
  • Schedule III- Class 5 felony, 10 years in prison, $2,500 in fines.
  • Schedule IV- Class 6 felony, 5 years in prison, $2,500 in fines.
  • Schedule V or VI- Class 1 misdemeanor, 1 year in jail, $2,500 in fines.
[Related: Misdemeanor Cases]

Drug Testing in Virginia

It is illegal to purposefully and deceitfully defeat a drug and/or alcohol screening test (Virginia criminal code 18.2-251.4). It is also prohibited to sell, give away, transport, distribute, or market “clean” human urine to allow yourself or another person to pass the drug/alcohol screening test.

Citizens are also prohibited from using a substitute product or modifying or tainting a urine sample in order to defeat a drug/alcohol screening test.

Violations can result in a Class I misdemeanor, 1 year in jail and $2,500 in fines. However, interpretations are subjective and to establish guilt, there needs to be strong scientific evidence.

The attorneys at King, Campbell, Porezt have extensive experience fighting these types of charges. If you are facing drug charges in Virginia, please contact us and let us fight for you.

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