A drug possession charge is the kind of charge that can follow you the rest of your life, making things such as getting a job or maintaining a residence difficult for you. These consequences can be quite devastating, but they’re made even worse when you choose an inexperienced lawyer who misses a good defense to the charge.
Should you be facing a drug possession charge, it only makes sense that you would want to get an idea of what type of impact it could have on your life. To answer this question, we’ll look at Virginia’s first-offender program, the potential penalties for drug possession charges, and take a brief look at some of the defenses used to argue your innocence.
What is the First-Offender Program in Virginia?
Virginia’s first-offender program is one way in which the state works to help those who come across the wrong side of the law for the first time. It serves as a way for those who are struggling with an addiction that lead to criminal charges to avoid having it destroy their life or add undue challenges to it.
The idea is simple. Those who are eligible are able to go through a drug diversion program. The charges are deferred while you work through the drug treatment program and, depending on the outcome of the program, they could even end up dropped.
This route isn’t without it’s own challenges, however. You have to be screened into the program to be admitted, which will be based upon your addiction, you will need to do community service, and you will have to pay the fees for the program yourself. The courts are also able to impose other stipulations that you must meet.
Failing to meet the stipulations can result in the court finding you guilty and moving on to sentencing. So it is important to make completion of the first-offender program a priority in your life and your overriding goal to get through it successfully.
What Penalties are there for a Drug Possession Charge in Virginia?
As far as penalties go, there are a number of them that you could potentially be facing. This is determined primarily by the type of drug that you were accused of possessing. Virginia law has penalties for possession of any drug from Schedule I to Schedule VI.
The idea behind this is that the less dangerous the substance, the less serious are the penalties a person should face for having possession of it. However, the amount of the substance possessed can matter. There is a big difference between being found with a gram of cocaine and being found with a pound cocaine, for example. If you’re caught with a large quantity of illegal drugs then you may be charged with possession with intent to sell it, and this would disqualify you from participating in a drug treatment program even if you are just selling it to support your addiction.
The penalties for possessing drugs in Virginia are:
- Possession of a Schedule VI drug is the least of the charges, as it is only a Class 4 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of drug possession at this level then you will be facing a fine of up to $250.
- Possession of a Schedule V drug is a Class 3 misdemeanor crime. If you are convicted of drug possession at this level then you will be facing a fine of up to $500.
- Possession of a Schedule IV drug is a Class 2 misdemeanor crime. If you are convicted of drug possession at this level then you could be facing up to six months in jail, along with a fine of up to $1,000.
- Possession of a Schedule III drug is a Class 1 misdemeanor crime. If you are convicted of drug possession at this level then you could spend up to twelve months in jail,and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug is a Class 5 felony, making for the harshest of the potential penalties. If you are convicted of drug possession at this level then you could be sentenced to one year to 10 years in prison.
What are the Possible Defenses to Drug Possession Charges?
Just like there are a number of different levels at which a drug possession could be charged, there are also a number of different defenses that could be used to prove you innocent of the charges.
We’ll look at a number of defenses in one moment but it’s important to first note that not every defense fits every case. It’s always important to work with an experienced lawyer to select and build the best defense for your specific charges.
Some defenses that could help with a drug possession charge in Virginia are:
- One approach is to argue that the search and seizure of the drugs in question was unlawful and thus unconstitutional
- Another approach is to argue that the actions of the police during the search and seizure were unlawful and constitute police misconduct
- If you were charged for a substance which you have a prescription to have, then this can be a solid defense
- It is possible to challenge the identification of the drug in question, such as when the officers misidentified the substance
- If the substance itself is clearly identified properly, it is still possible that you were charged for the possession when in fact the substance belonged to another individual besides yourself
Which Defense Should I Use Against My Drug Possession Charge?
If you are facing a drug possession charge then you shouldn’t represent yourself in court. It’s much better to work with an attorney that can help you select the best possible defense. Here at the Law Office of Seth C. Weston, we have lots of experience in helping defend people just like yourself who have wound up on the wrong side of the law.
If you are facing drug possession charges, reach out to us. We’re happy to listen and help defend you.