With any set of laws, there are common misconceptions and misunderstandings. Drug crimes are some of the most common offenses as well as most often misconstrued. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is a strict set of drug laws that all citizens must abide by. Virginia has a set of schedules that define the different types of controlled substances and the severity of their potential for abuse and dependency. Listed are some of the common misconceptions of drug-related laws.
1. Drug Related Crimes are not Serious Offenses
In Virginia, drug related crimes are taken very seriously. Each schedule of controlled substances and Marijuana has an associated sentence and/or fine amount. To learn more about each schedule and the related punishments click here.
2. Any and All Possession Charges Lead to Conviction
Depending on the situation there are certain aspects that can keep your record clean. If the search when the substance was found was not warranted with probable cause, the charge can be dropped or lessened. It is also possible that the defendant was unaware that a controlled substance was in their possession. There is a possibility of a diversion program even if the search was warranted and the defendant possessed the controlled substance.
In Virginia, convictions cannot be expunged, except for specific situations. For instance, if the conviction occurred while you were a minor. Also, deferred dispositions cannot be expunged. Many people are not aware that if they take a deal, it will remain on their record.
Being convicted of a drug crime can prevent you from obtaining citizenship, or even cause you to be deported.
3. A Defendant Can Only be Convicted of Distribution if They are Caught Selling the Substance
There are other indicators that define a possession or a distribution charge other than the actual act of distribution. Having a large amount of the controlled substance, or having the substance separated for distribution can both lead to a distribution charge without ever selling or distributing the drug. These instances are referred to as intent to sell or distribute.
There is also a difference between distribution for profit and distribution for accommodation. Distribution for profit is where one gets something of value for the drug. One could be charged with distribution for profit when two or more persons share drugs. Each gains the drug from the other.
Distribution for accommodation is when a person distributes drugs for a favor essentially. A lawyer can argue a lesser sentence with accommodation.
When looking at possession, and distribution, the court looks to actual direct proof or the circumstantial – totality of the circumstances. They take different factors into account such as the amount of money present as well as any paraphernalia.
Seasoned lawyers are able to argue current law and look for exceptions. Clients need to determine if they want to settle and take the easy route, or fight the charges.
4. A First Conviction Usually Does Not Mean Jail Time
Many courts primarily focus on treatment of the substance abuse after the first conviction, but that does not mean there will be no jail time. If the defendant does not provide a stable reason for a second chance, the defendant may be sentenced to jail time.
The courts will usually offer no jail time for a first time marijuana case, however that is not necessarily true with felony drugs.
Right now, Virginia is heavily focusing on heroine cases. As a result, they are being very tough in these cases now, especially in cases involving overdose or guns.