In many places in the US, it is not a crime to possess a small amount of marijuana. But in Virginia, it's still a crime. If you are charged with Possession of Marijuana in Virginia, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney. It is a relatively minor offense, but there are still lasting consequences you may not be aware of.
Possession of Marijuana is defined as being in knowing possession of marijuana.
That means that you must have knowledge that the substance is marijuana before you can be convicted. Knowledge can be inferred from the facts of your case. If marijuana is found in your pocket, a court or jury can infer you knew it was marijuana. If marijuana is found in a car, and you are the only one in the car, that alone is not enough to prove your guilt.
Possession has a special legal definition. It can be more than just having something in your hand or pocket. If you have dominion or control over something, you can be convicted of possessing it. For example, if you have marijuana in your sock drawer and police come to your house when you're not home and find it, you can still be convicted of possession of marijuana.
As was mentioned above, however, just being in a car where drugs are found is not enough to be in possession of drugs. There are many different factors that come into play. If many different people use and ride in the car, that can create reasonable doubt about whether you were in knowing possession of the drugs.
Possession of marijuana is still a crime in Virginia. It is still a crime because the Virginia legislature believes it is dangerous and has very limited medicinal use. The most common way to get charged with possession of marijuana is if you're pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer claims to smell marijuana in your vehicle. In Virginia, smelling marijuana gives the officer the right to search your vehicle. It also does not matter about small the amount of marijuana is. You can be charged with simple possession of marijuana for residue.
A first offense carries the possibility of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A second offense is a class 1 misdemeanor which carries 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
If you're charged with possession of marijuana and this would be your first conviction, you are probably eligible for the First Offender Program. The First Offender program allows the charge to be dismissed after you complete community service and substance abuse counseling.
It's also important to know that if you're convicted of possession of marijuana, your driver's license will be suspended for six months. You can obtain a restricted license, but the suspension is automatic.