Penalties For Loudoun County Drug Charges
Loudoun County, just as many others in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has very stiff penalties for drug offenses. Many felony drug offenses, including simple possession, are Class 5 felonies that are punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison or up to 12 months in jail and/or fine. Simple possession offenses that are Schedule 3, 4, 5 or 6 or simple possession of marijuana are misdemeanor offenses typically punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2500. If someone is charged for the very first time with marijuana and is not eligible for a first offender program then that first offense of marijuana possession is an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
Additionally, and very importantly, any drug conviction in Virginia brings an automatic 6 months loss of a person’s Virginia license or in the case of an out of state driver 6 months loss of privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is by statute, meaning it is not subject to negotiation. A drug conviction equals 6 months loss of license. This is true for simple marijuana possession all the way up until serious drug trafficking.
Diversion Programs Available For Drug Offenses
There are some very specific deferred finding or diversion programs available in Virginia. The two most common are found under the section of Virginia Code 18.2 – 251 also known as a “251 disposition.” This disposition is available in two common, but slightly different instances. The first is when someone has been charged with first offense of marijuana possession. First offense marijuana possession is subject to first offender disposition for which the offender enters a plea but is not found guilty. Instead, the finding of guilt is deferred or continued for a period of time and the person is required to take part in substance abuse evaluation, complete 24 hours of community service, pay the court costs, remain drug free during the probationary time period, and follow up with any substance abuse treatment recommendations after that by regulation.
If they do all these things and incur no further violations of the law for a minimum period of 6 months up to a period of 2 years, depending on the circumstances of their case, their charge will then be dismissed.
Alternative Sentencing for Drug Offenses
There is one program. There is typically no pre-trial diversion like there is in Maryland or District of Columbia. We do not have probation before judgment for them. However, there may be a variety of sentencing options that would be available to a person accused of this offense.
Typically, the sentencing options that become available are more serious felony offenses where a person has a significant possibility of a certain period of incarceration or jail time. These are found in 18.2-254 and are called a “254 evaluation.” There is also a statutory detention and diversion evaluation which is a program by which a person is placed into a 6 month diversion program and 6 month detention program in lieu of incarceration. That program takes at least a year to complete. The person has to face a significant amount of jail time, must be a non-violent offender, and meet other criteria.