How Does Virginia Law Differentiate Between Drug Possession and Intent to Distribute?

In Virginia, the law refers to drugs as controlled substances and keeps track of these substances by classifying them into different ‘Schedules.’ Drug possession and the intent to sell or distribute are the two main crimes connected with drugs. Understanding the similarities and differences is important, especially if you or a loved one are recently facing drug charges.

Drug possession is the knowledgeable control or ownership of a drug without a valid prescription. The person in possession of the drug must know that they have the drug on their person or under their control and must possess the drug intentionally. Not all states grant this requirement to accused drug offenders. If they are unaware of the drug’s existence on their person, they should not be charged with drug possession offenses.

Drug possession intending to sell or distribute is precisely what it sounds like. It is illegal to sell or distribute controlled substances. These charges are worse for those selling Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances, like heroin or LSD. The crime of selling or distributing drugs occurs when an individual or group purposefully provides, gives away, delivers, or sells a drug without a proper license.

In some cases where there are large amounts of drugs, law enforcement and the prosecution may accuse the defendants of the intent to distribute. Protect your legal rights by speaking with our law firm’s counsel for drug possession cases today.

What Are the Drug Classifications?

Illegal controlled substances are broken up into five different classes in Virginia. These classes are separated based on their potential for drug abuse and the redeeming medical qualities of each drug.

Class I drugs include heroin, acid (or LSD), ecstasy, and marijuana. Many may be surprised to see marijuana listed in Class I since it was recently legalized. However, the illegal sale or possession of marijuana is still against the law.

Class II drugs include crystal meth, cocaine, Ritalin, PCP, and morphine.

Class III drugs include codeine, anabolic steroids, antidepressants, and certain barbiturates.

Class IV controlled substances include Xanax, Valium, Darvon, and some tranquilizers.

And Class V drugs include codeine-based cough medicines and several other OTC medications.

What Are the Consequences for the Crime of Drug Possession?

To secure a guilty conviction for simple drug possession, the prosecutors must prove three factors: you knew of the presence of the illegal narcotics, were aware that they were illegal controlled substances, and that you possessed or controlled the drugs. The penalties for common drug possession depend upon what drug you possessed and how much you carried.

Illegal possession of a drug like LSD or heroin can be charged as a Class 5 felony, carrying potential fines up to $2,500 and as many as ten years in prison. Possession of marijuana could be charged as a misdemeanor.

What Are the Penalties for a Virginia Drug Distribution Offense?

Possession with the intent to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II substance can be charged as a felony crime. The potential penalties can be very harsh, with up to 40 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The punishments for the intent to sell or distribute marijuana are less severe but should not be taken lightly. Depending on the circumstances, the illegal sale or distribution of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Amounts less than 0.5 ounces can be a misdemeanor charge, punishable with fines up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Amounts of marijuana over 0.5 ounces but less than five pounds is a felony, potentially punishable by up to a decade in prison.

Schedule an In-Depth Case Review with Our Legal Team Today

If you’re facing drug charges in Virginia, do not underestimate the severity of your situation. You must consider professional legal representation to defend your rights. The Law Office of Seth C. Weston has extensive experience representing clients accused of drug offenses, and we would be proud to provide our legal services to you during this troubling time.

To speak with our lawyers, please get in touch with our Roanoke-based law office at (540)-384-4585.