Prosecutors in the Commonwealth of Virginia take drug possession and distribution charges seriously. Even if you are found with a small amount of a controlled substance, you could face jail, costly fines, and a driver’s license suspension. Most Virginia residents know that possession of illegal drugs can result in jail time. Still, they may not be familiar with exactly how tough Virginia’s drug possession and distribution charges are. If you are facing drug charges in Virginia, there are several different legal strategies you can take to fight them.
Controlled Substances Categorized by Their Severity
In Virginia, controlled substances are classified according to their potential for abuse and addictiveness. Additionally, whether the controlled substance has any accepted medical use plays a role in how the drug is categorized. Schedule I controlled substances are the most serious. Charges for possession or distribution of schedule 1 drugs carry the harshest penalties and result in a prison sentence of over 25 years. Schedule I drugs include psilocybin, LSD, ecstasy, and heroin.
Schedule II Controlled Substances include opium, cocaine, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine. Schedule V Controlled Substances include drugs or medications with lower amounts of codeine that are more commonly used, such as prescription cough medications. Schedule VI controlled substances are the least dangerous and include depressant and stimulant drugs that do not fall into the categories of Schedule I through V.
Fighting Charges for Simple Drug Possession in Virginia
Simple drug possession is a common criminal charge in Virginia, but that does not mean the penalties are not significant. Under Virginia law, it is illegal for someone to possess even a tiny amount of any controlled substance without a medical doctor’s prescription. Even a first-time conviction of a small amount of possession of a controlled substance can result in jail time. The type of penalties you face depends on the type of controlled substance and the amount of the controlled substance with which you have been found.
Possession of a small amount of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, is considered a Class 5 felony in Virginia. The penalty for a Class 5 felony includes up to $2,500 in fines and a jail sentence of up to 10 years. Possession of Xanax, which is a schedule III controlled substance, is a class 1 misdemeanor with a jail sentence of up to 12 months and fines of up to $2,500.
Virginia’s First Offender Program
If you are a first-time drug offender, you may qualify for the first offender program, also called a 251 program. The goal of this program is to help rehabilitate people rather than punish them for first-time drug offenses. If you have never entered the first offender program before and have not been charged with any type of drug offense in Virginia, you will qualify for this program. The judge overseeing your case will need to permit you to enter the program, which is why you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side making the case that you should be in the program.
To enter the program, you will need to plead guilty or no contest to the drug charges and then complete the program. You will be able to avoid the jail time that would come with a conviction of the crime with which you have been charged. Instead of jail time, you will need to undergo a six-to 12 months probation period and conduct community services. It is important that you understand you need to complete all the program requirements, or you could end up facing harsher penalties.
Request a Drug Court
Another option would be to request to move your criminal case to a city or county-specific drug court. Drug courts are specialized courts that deal primarily with drug-related cases and try to prevent punishment. Instead, drug courts try to provide defendants with an environment focused on recovery. Pleading guilty to drug court can have many benefits, and it is worth discussing this option with your lawyer.
Try to Get the Charges Dismissed
Depending on the facts in your case, you may be able to successfully petition the court to dismiss the charges against you altogether. When law enforcement officers make mistakes or intentionally violate a suspect’s constitutional rights, the defendant can ask the court to drop the charges. Any evidence gathered from an illegal search or seizure cannot be admitted into court against the defendant. For example, if a police officer arrested you without the necessary probable cause, you can petition the court to throw out the evidence against you.
Enter a Plea Deal
Many drug cases end in the defendant making a plea deal. In a plea deal, the defendant agrees to plead guilty for a lesser charge. Plea deals are more common in low-level felony drug cases. Your defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution to drop your charges down to a misdemeanor in exchange for you agreeing to plead guilty. However, it is essential that you understand all of the terms of your plea deal before you agreed to it. Entering into a plea deal can be your best option in some cases. In other cases, especially when the prosecution does not have enough evidence against you, a plea deal may not be your best option.
Contact a Lynchburg Drug Possession and Distribution Lawyer Today
Are you or your loved one facing Virginia drug possession or distribution charges? If so, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. The Lynchburg drug possession lawyers at Straw Law Firm are here to help. We have a proven track record of obtaining the best possible outcomes in our client’s cases, and our lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the criminal process in Lynchburg. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation to discuss your case and potential legal strategies.