Virginia Marijuana Possession Lawyer
The only way anyone may lawfully possess marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia is with a valid “medical marijuana” prescription from a practicing physician in the course of treatment for cancer or glaucoma. [Virginia Code Section 18.2-251.1]. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana under any other circumstances, you could face a jail sentence, substantial fines, and harsh additional consequences. All of these potential penalties can have a negative impact of your livelihood without the counsel of an experienced Virginia marijuana possession lawyer.
First offense marijuana possession is an unclassified misdemeanor under the Virginia Code. That means that it is given special treatment with specific penalties, in this case a potential jail sentence of up to thirty (30) days and a fine of up to $500.00. Second or subsequent possession of marijuana offenses rise to the level of a full class 1 misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine on the table. Additionally, a conviction or deferred finding for possession of marijuana will trigger a six (6) month suspension of Virginia driving privileges, even if the facts underlying the charge did not involve a vehicle. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to successfully petition for a restricted license during those six months.
More Serious Possession Penalties
If you’re arrested for possessing more than half an ounce, or you have other more serious controlled substances in your possession, the charges can quickly expand past a misdemeanor charge.
There are specific Virginia statutory guidelines that might increase your charges from simple possession to felony possession “with intent to distribute” marijuana, such as:
- Half an ounce up to five pounds – a class 5 felony – Up to 10 years in prison [Section 18.2-248.1 (a)(2)]
- More than five pounds – a serious unclassified felony – 5 to 30 years in prison [Section 18.2-248.1 (a)(3)]
Such weights certainly suggest that you have too much pot for your own personal consumption and that you do, in-fact, possess with intent to distribute. In the eye of law enforcement, that makes you a drug dealer, and the target of more aggressive prosecution. It is also a felony to “manufacture or cultivate” marijuana with intent to distribute. The penalty for this offense is five to 30 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000 [Virginia Code Section 18.2-248.1 (c)]. Possessing more than a few plants may draw this charge.
It is also possible that your drug charges will draw the attention of federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), if they believe you are distributing marijuana across state lines. And should the U.S. Attorney’s Office decide to take over the case, federal charges could draw even more serious penalties than those in Virginia [21 U.S.C. 841 et seq].
Other Dangers of Conviction for Marijuana Possession
Even though some states are decriminalizing the possession of small, personal amounts of non-medical marijuana, the Commonwealth of Virginia has no immediate plans to follow in the footsteps of these progressive states. It is still against the law to possess marijuana in Virginia, despite changing views in our neighbor states. Even though a simple possession conviction may not always result in jail time or high fines, there will be still be consequence. If you’re found guilty, a criminal conviction can impact many other parts of your life and includes a mandatory loss of driving privileges, as do all drug convictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis and you are operating a motor vehicle under the influence, you could be charged with DUI in addition to possession. Under such a scenario, the license suspensions mandated by each code section would stack, exposing the driver to a potential eighteen (18) month loss of license, 12 for DUI, 6 for possession, in addition to other mandatory penalties associated with a DUI.
In any drug investigation, there are often opportunities to explore how the alleged drug material was discovered and whether the search and seizure of your person or property was constitutionally sound. As experienced Virginia marijuana possession attorneys, we are constantly exploring the changing landscape of Fourth Amendment search and seizure law. Our knowledge and skill may help to exclude or limit evidence or statements that are harmful to your case. Be sure to take note of as many details of your arrest, search, or questioning as soon as possible to preserve these key issues for your discussions with counsel.
Though not every drug possession case goes to trial, it is our goal to prepare every case thoroughly in order to be able to advise you properly as to the possible outcomes of your case. We look out for your best interests, and make sure you are informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your case and what options you may have to resolve your case favorably.