In Virginia, it is unlawful to possess marijuana for personal use. §18.2-250.1 of the Code of Virginia makes it a misdemeanor to possess marijuana in small quantities less than half an ounce. On a first offense, punishment ranges from zero to thirty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00. A second or subsequent conviction is a Class One Misdemeanor, punishable by zero to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.00.Penalties for Possession of Marijuana in Virginia
Under Virginia Code §18.2-259.1, the court takes the drivers license of those convicted for a period of six months. A defendant convicted of possession of marijuana may petition for a restricted license to drive to work, school, church and medical appointments. As a condition of the restricted license, the court may require that the person be supervised by the Alcohol Safety Action Program.Virginia First-Time Misdemeanor Offense Penalties
For first-time misdemeanor offenders, the court may defer all proceedings and continue the case for dismissal. Section §18.2-251 of the Virginia Code allows the court to place the defendant on probation during the deferral period. If the accused remains on good behavior during the deferral period, the court may dismiss the charges. The defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty to the charge to participate in the 251 program. The advantage of the program is that the client avoids a conviction on his or her criminal record if they successfully complete all requirements.
Effective in 2017, if the offense did not occur during use of a motor vehicle, the drivers license of the defendant is not suspended for six months during the deferral period. However, the court may still suspend the license if a motor vehicle was in operation at the time of the offense. A defendant is now ordered to successfully complete fifty hours of community service and the Alcohol Safety Action Program as a condition of probation. If the license is suspended, the court generally allows the accused to have a restricted license to drive for work, school, church or medical appointments.
Juveniles that participate in the 251 deferral program for dismissal are still subject to a mandatory six month loss of license under the amended 2017 law. They may be eligible for a restricted license if they participate.
Due to the highly punitive terms of the 251 deferral program, Attorney Yeargan explores alternative dispositions that may help the client avoid a license suspension and required participation in the ASAP program. Depending on the facts and criminal record, Attorney Yeargan negotiates with the prosecutor (Commonwealth Attorney) to obtain an informal deferral for dismissal with good behavior and completion of community service hours. This typically involves a general continuance of the court case for two to three months for completion of the community service hours. No plea is ever entered in the case. If an agreement can be made and the deferral goes well, the case is dismissed at the next court appearance. This saves the client from a potential loss of license and ASAP participation.
The informal deferral option also has another major advantage. At the conclusion of the court case, it is dismissed by the judge. There is never a plea entered on the record. The client is therefore eligible for expungement of the original arrest. A Petition for Expungement can be successfully filed in the Circuit Court of the county that the case was litigated.
In the event the prosecutor is unwilling to allow the client to do an informal deferral or reduce the case to a lesser charge, Attorney Yeargan examines every aspect of the investigatory stop for possible defenses to use at trial. A Motion to Suppress may be filed if the officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the client. The field test used to identify the marijuana is thoroughly analyzed to determine if it was done correctly under Virginia law. Defense counsel uncovers all facts to find out if the officer can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the client had actual or constructive possession of the marijuana. The case will then be aggressively argued at trial using technical defenses to obtain possible dismissal of the charge.Virginia Possession With Intent to Distribute Penalties
Virginia Code §18.2-248.1 specifies that possession with intent to distribute more than a one-half ounce to five pounds of marijuana is a Class Five Felony. The Code states the punishment for this level of offense as imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.00, either or both. Under Virginia Code §18.2-259.1, the court takes the drivers license of those convicted for a period of six months. Contact Attorney Yeargan if you are charged with this offense. He may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to Simple Misdemeanor Possession. There are technical defenses to the charge that need to be explored by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.Virginia Marijuana Distribution in School Zone Penalties
Virginia Code §18.2-255.2 is a common charge for juveniles that exchange or distribute marijuana to their friends in school. The code section makes it a felony to possess with intent to distribute any amount of marijuana in a school, school bus, or public property within 1,000 feet of a school or other government building.
A violation of this provision is punishable by imprisonment for a term of not less than one year nor more than five years and a fine of not more than $100,000.00.
However, if the accused proves that the marijuana was distributed as an accommodation, and not for profit, the charge may be reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor (punishable by zero to twelve months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.00).Contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Today
There are many technical defenses to the charge of possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Marijuana cases often involve complex search and seizure defenses that only a qualified and experienced attorney can present in court.
Contact Attorney Yeargan today for a complete review of your case and evaluation of any defenses that may allow the charge to be reduced or dismissed. Call or send an online message to discuss your legal options with Attorney Yeargan today.