Drug Possession Lawyers in Manassas, VA
While there are some drug offenses that may constitute federal drug crimes, and therefore be subject to penalties set forth by the federal government, most drug possession crimes that occur in Virginia are governed under state law. Each state has autonomy to set forth their own regulations regarding drug possession and acts involving controlled substances; in Virginia, those penalties are harsh. If you have been charged with a drug possession crime in our state, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. While a drug possession charge can be scary, remember that a charge is not a conviction, and that you have the right to defend yourself. Our legal team can help.
Defining Drug Possession in Virginia
As found in the Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250, drug possession occurs when an individual is in possession of a controlled substance without a valid prescription for it. Possession does not just mean on one’s person or in one’s hands, but on one’s property or within their control.
Controlled substances are classified by schedules. These schedules are important to understand, as the penalties for possession vary depending upon the schedule of the drug involved. There are six schedules recognized in Virginia:
- Schedule I – These are the hardest drugs that have a high potential for abuse and addiction, such as heroin.
- Schedule II – These are also addictive drugs with a high potential for abuse, like opiates, but some of the drugs within this category may be used for medical purposes.
- Schedule III – Drugs in this category also have an accepted medical use, and less risk for addiction and abuse. For example, codeine and anabolic steroids are Schedule III drugs.
- Schedule IV – Xanax and certain tranquilizers are classified as Schedule IV drugs due to their accepted medical use and minimal risk of dependency.
- Schedule V – These drugs have the lowest risk for abuse, and may even be available without a prescription in some cases, such as cough syrup.
- Schedule VI – Finally, the state also recognizes Schedule IV drugs, which may not be drugs but rather substances that are often abused and used as drugs, such as inhalants.
Penalties for Drug Possession in Virginia
Penalties for drug possession are based on the schedule of the drug involved. Simple possession of a controlled substance is punishable in the following ways in Virginia:
- Schedule I or II drug – Fine of up to $2,500 and incarceration period of up to 12 months; or incarceration period of between one and 10 years
- Schedule III drug – Fine of up to $2,500; jail time of up to one year
- Schedule IV drug – Fine of up to $1,000; jail time of up to six months
- Schedule V drug – Misdemeanor crime; fine of up to $500
- Schedule IV substance – Misdemeanor crime; fine of up to $250
Only the possession of a schedule I or II drug is considered a felony; all other possession crimes (schedule III-V) are classified as varying degree of misdemeanor crimes. As a note, marijuana possession is also handled differently in Virginia. Possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense penalized by a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail, and a subsequent offense involving less than ½ ounce is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Conviction for possession of any controlled substance results in a mandatory 6 month suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license.
While simple possession is penalized in the manner described above, keep in mind that a drug crime is more serious, and the penalties more severe, when a person is convicted of possession with intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute.
If you are convicted of a drug possession charge, this conviction has the potential to alter the course of your life. Even if you are not imprisoned or must spend time in jail, you will have a mark on your permanent record that could prevent you from obtaining employment or housing, gaining custody of your children in the event of a separation, or even pursuing other opportunities, such as higher education or an apprenticeship.
Defenses to a Drug Possession Charge
Being charged with a drug possession crime can be scary. However, the sooner that you call a Virginia criminal defense attorney, the earlier you can start building your defense, hopefully improving the outcome of your case. While the defense option that you use will be specific to your circumstances–and perhaps you will not use any defense, but instead strike a plea deal with the prosecution–some potential defenses to a drug possession charge include–
- Legal possession. Some drugs are used for medical purposes, and having them in one’s possession is legal when accompanied by a valid prescription. You may be able to argue that you have the drugs due to your doctor’s recommendation and under your doctor’s authorization.
- Lack of knowledge. In some cases, it may be possible to argue that the drugs are not yours or/and you had a lack of knowledge of them being in your possession. For example, if drugs are found in your kitchen and you share your home with a roommate, you could argue that the drugs are your roommate’s or your roommate’s friends’ drugs, and that you were unaware that they were in your home.
- Illegal search and seizure. Even if you were in possession of the drugs illegally, if the police who found the drugs collected them via an illegal search and seizure, your constitutional rights were violated, and the evidence (i.e. proof of drugs) cannot be used against you. If you believe that your rights were breached, share this information with your attorney immediately.
You Need an Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side
Regardless of your circumstances or any prior criminal history, you need and deserve an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. At the law offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., our aggressive drug crimes lawyers are ready to advocate for you. We are knowledgeable in all elements of drug possession law, and know how to ensure our clients’ rights are protected. Reach out to us today for your case consultation by calling us at 703-361-1555, sending us a message describing your case, or even dropping by our Manassas office at your convenience.