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What Determines the Severity of Drug Charges in Loudoun County?

The severity of the drug charges depends on a variety of different circumstances. If you are unsure of what charges you are facing or are seeking legal representation, call today and schedule a free consultation with a Loudoun County drug lawyer.

The Type of Drug (Schedule of Controlled Substance)

First, the severity is determined by what type of drug is at issue. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a schedule for drugs similar to the Controlled Substances Act but not exactly identical. For the most part, Virginia has incorporated the Federal Controlled Substances Act but with a few changes. The major difference is that marijuana is an unscheduled drug under the Virginia Controlled Substances Act while it is a Schedule 1 substance in the federal version.

This means that in Virginia, a simple possession of marijuana charge is a misdemeanor offense and not a felony. However, Schedule I or II controlled substances, which are typically drugs of abuse that have  limited or no medical purpose, are always felony offenses in Virginia.  Even with a small measurable amount, a few pills or even residue, you can be charged with a felony offense.

Virginia also has Schedule 3, 4, 5, or 6 Controlled Substances. Simple possession of these drugs is a misdemeanor. These can include certain drugs with medical benefits that can also be subject to abuse, such as Tylenol with codeine (Tylenol-3), many “benzo” group medications  (benzodiazapines include alprazolam/Xanax and clonazepam/Klonopin), and ketamine. So the first category of what determines the severity of the drug offense is the type of drugs.

The Quantity or Amount of the Drug

The second category that determines how serious a drug offense someone is charged with is the quantity of the drug. For example, simple possession of marijuana in an amount under a ½ ounce may be a misdemeanor while possession of several pounds of marijuana may be a felony offense.

How the Drug Was Being Used (Possession, Sale, etc.)

The third factor is the intended use or what may be inferred as the use of the drug material depending on the activities during an arrest. For example, distribution of a drug is often going to be a felony offense. However, distribution of a small amount of marijuana may still be a misdemeanor. Therefore, when the weight and the activity are combined they have an influence on what type of charge might be brought. Possession with intent to distribute (PWID) or distribution of a Schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance is always a felony, and PWID or distribution of marijuana can also be a felony, depending on the weight.

Myths About Severity of Loudoun Drug Charges

I believe that the most common misconception is that a small amount of illegal drug is not a big deal. It certainly is. Virginia prosecutors are buoyed by strong case law that allows prosecution for any weight or amount of drugs, even what is called “residue.” This means that even if the drug doesn’t have a weight and it is just powder, dust, resin, or residue, you can still be prosecuted, and these are prosecuted quite regularly, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The other primary misconception is that marijuana is not a big deal. There is a national trend toward a relaxed view for marijuana. States are constantly legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Washington State, Colorado, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., have all decriminalized or legalized marijuana in some fashion.

Virginia is not on that list. Although there is a growing movement of support, there is no pending legislation that would decriminalize or legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Therefore, I think the view that marijuana is not a big deal is also a very common misconception.

Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Group

Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Group
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