The United States has taken some of the initial steps to walk away from the war on drugs with many states decriminalizing or even legalizing certain quantities of marijuana. However, unlike other countries, there is no real change to how other drugs are charged and punished. Virginia, like many states, has decriminalized some marijuana possession in code section 18.2-250.1 but other drugs-related crimes still carry extremely heavy jail sentences and fines. Furthermore, there are still marijuana offenses that are criminal, including distribution which can be a felony or a misdemeanor as codified in 18.2-248.1. A conviction of any criminal drug offense in Virginia will likely 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. If you have been arrested, are being investigated or have an upcoming court date, the time is now to consult with an experienced trial attorney at Battlefield Law Group PLLC. Our attorneys can discuss possible defenses with you so that you have a better understanding of your particular circumstances, constitutional rights, and all 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 several 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 as addressed in Virginia Code Section 18.2-251. The attorneys at Battlefield Law Group PLLC are familiar with options for strategic defense, charge reduction, and other ways to limit the legal, personal, and professional impact of drug charges.

Scheduled and Controlled 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.

As of July 1, 2020, the mandatory license suspense of 6 months for each drug-related offense was repealed. This means, a conviction of the drug offense will not result in a license suspension unless there is some other additional charge that requires it, for example, Driving under the Influence of Drugs in violation of 18.2-266.

Marijuana Laws in the Commonwealth

In Virginia, as of July 1, 2020, marijuana is a legal substance if prescribed for a legitimate medical need and is decriminalized if solely for personal use. 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 personal recreational purposes, the fine for such possession is a civil penalty of $25 and there is a rebuttable presumption that a person who possesses no more than one ounce of marijuana possesses it for personal use. Additionally, there is no longer a license suspension for possession or distribution of marijuana. Distribution, gifting, possession with the intent to sell marijuana is still criminal. If the quantity is under one ounce, this distribution of such marijuana is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor which is punished by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2500 fine. More than one ounce and less than 5 pounds in a distribution case is considered a Class 5 felony. The greater the weight of the marijuana the more sever the penalty in Virginia.

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.

Virginia Drug Rehabilitation and Counseling

Drug charges are on the rise in Virginia. People are struggling with addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, PCP, opiates, fentanyl, prescriptions, and other substances. Our attorneys know that sometimes the best defense is preparation, treatment and counseling. The criminal justice system is very good at punishing and imprisoning people who commit crimes. The United States criminal justice system is a bit beyond when we ask it to help people with underlying physical, psychological, or emotional problems that led them to the custody of police, to the courtroom and ultimately to jail. In Virginia, it is best to seek help before the case gets to the courtroom.

The attorneys at Battlefield Law Group PLLC are very conscience and aware of the struggles that individuals and their family/friends are facing and the amount of stress these causes. We are extremely well connected with various counseling, assessment and treatment options that we can connect people with – this is not only to help the case at court but also help the individual to not be arrested again later date. Additionally, many times people need to be in treatment at the time of the first court date or need to leave the state to get to a treatment provider. Our attorneys are mindful of all court procedures and will file appropriate motions to ask the court for permission for any reasonable need our client might have.

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. There are various defenses that our attorneys can discuss with you including the following examples from previous representations:

  • The officer did not have probable cause to search the vehicle, in violation of the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures therefore, the evidence obtain should be excluded from trial.
  • There was no possession when the heroin was found in the truck of the car and the owner had no knowledge of the substance presence and others has access to the car.
  • The car should not have been pulled over where there was no traffic violation and all the officer saw as a person approach the driver side door and leave quickly at a gas station. This was not enough to supply the officer with reasonable articulable suspension.
  • The drugs and evidence were not handled properly, and chain of custody cannot be established and therefore the laboratory results are not admissible to establish the nature and quantity of 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. Every case has unique facts that are specific to you. Please contact Battlefield Law Group PLLC for an individualized consultation today to learn more about your unique situation. Depending on the circumstances of your situation, Battlefield Law Group 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.