Drug crimes are one of the most frequently prosecuted crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the penalties may be severe. If you have been arrested and charged with any drug offense, you might be facing a mandatory prison sentence and/or large fines, and it is critically important that you hire a knowledgeable Virginia criminal defense attorney with experience handling drug cases.
The are three drug offenses typically charged in Virginia are:
- Possession – an individual possesses any controlled substance without a valid prescription
- Sale or distribution – an individual sells, provides, gives away, delivers, or distributes a controlled substance
- Manufacturing – an individual produces a controlled substance without legal authorization or possesses the chemicals used to manufacture a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture
According to the Virginia’s Drug Control Act, controlled substances are classified into six schedules:
- Schedule 1—Drugs that are addictive with no medical use including heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy
- Schedule 2 — Drugs that are addictive with some medical use including cocaine, PCP and morphine
- Schedule 3 — Drugs that are highly addictive with frequent medical use including steroids, ketamine and hydrocodone
- Schedule 4 — Drugs that are slightly addictive with frequent medical use including Valium and Xanax, and other tranquilizers and sedatives
- Schedule 5 – Minor risk medications like codeine cough syrups
- Schedule 6 – Non-addictive substances like marijuana and other recreational inhalants
Penalties for possession, sale or distribution, or manufacturing depend on the specific drug and where it falls on the Virginia drug schedule. It’s important to understand that the more dangerous the substance, the more severe the penalty may be. Penalties for simple possession tend to be less harsh than penalties for drug distribution, sale, and manufacturing. Penalties may also be enhanced if large quantities of the drugs are involved, or if the drug crime took place near a school, or other areas where children congregate.
The table below gives a simple overview of possible penalties. Your Virginia criminal defense attorney at Sparrow|Reed PLLC can explain the law and the process, and how the penalties for charges like yours are commonly assessed.
|Possession of Schedule I or II controlled substance||Class 5 felony – imprisonment of one to 10 years, or confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.|
|Possession of Schedule III controlled substance||Class 1 misdemeanor – confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.|
|Possession of Schedule IV controlled substance||Class 2 misdemeanor – confinement in jail for up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000, either or both.|
|Possession of Schedule V controlled substance||Class 3 misdemeanor – fine of up to $500.|
|Possession of Schedule VI controlled substance||Class 4 misdemeanor – fine of up to $250.|
Intent to sell or distribute
|Possession of Schedule I or II controlled substance with the intent to sell or otherwise distribute||Felony conviction - imprisonment from five to 40 years and a fine of up to $500,000.
Upon a second conviction, the violator must be imprisoned for not less than five years but may suffer life imprisonment, and fined up to $500,000.
|Possession of Schedules III, IV, or V controlled substance with the intent to sell or otherwise distribute||Misdemeanor conviction - confinement in jail for up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.|
Unlike its neighbors, Maryland and Washington DC, personal recreational use of marijuana is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Possession of marijuana as a first offense is a misdemeanor with penalties of fines up to $500 and/or incarceration of up to 30 days.
A second offense requires fines up to $2500 and/or up to 12 months in jail.
In addition, there is a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension for an initial conviction of marijuana possession.
Penalties for the sale or cultivation of marijuana are much more severe and can incur imprisonment for up to 30 years and/or fines up to $10,000. Violation of the code three times results in penalties of fines up to $500,000 and incarceration of from five years to life.
Contact a criminal defense attorney
If you are arrested and/or charged with drug crimes, you should contact an attorney at Sparrow|Reed PLLC immediately. There is too much at stake to try and work through this process without the assistance of an experienced Virginia drug lawyer to protect your rights. Call today for a phone consultation.