Virginia law makes it illegal to possess or distribute a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Common drugs classified as a controlled substance include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine (“meth”), ecstasy, and prescription pills such as oxycodone. Illegal possession of these drugs is a serious felony. The circumstances under which a person can be charged varies greatly. However, the prosecution must prove every element of the offense. Depending on the circumstances under which a person is charged with illegal drug possession, there are several viable defenses to the charges.
Simple Drug Possession
To prove the charge of simple possession, the prosecution must present evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you were:
aware of the presence of the illegal drugs
aware of the character of the drugs, and
that you consciously possessed the drugs, or that they were subject to your dominion or control.
The punishment for felony simple drug possession ranges from 1 to 10 years, or in the discretion of the judge, confinement in jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.
Possession with Intent to Distribute or Sell
This is a more serious drug charge. To prove this charge, the prosecution must present evidence of possession and of an intent to distribute the illegal drugs. Evidence of an intent to distribute can be broad. Evidence of the following is a major consideration towards a finding of guilt on a distribution charge:
A large quantity of drugs that is greater than what one would ordinarily possess for personal use
Drugs packages in many individual bags
Scales and/or other drug packaging paraphernalia
Expert opinion on the quantity of drugs and the circumstances under which the drugs were recovered
A large amount of cash
The punishment for felony possession with the intent to distribute or sell ranges from 5 and 10 to 40 years and a fine of up to $500,000. A subsequent offense carries a potential life imprisonment.
Drug Sale or Distribution
The crime of sale or distribution of illegal drugs occurs when a person sells, provides, gives away, delivers, or distributes drug. It does not matter that the alleged illegal drugs were imitation (i.e., fake drugs) or that the person distributing them thought they were real.
The punishment for felony distribution of illegal drugs is determined by whether it is a first, second, third (or subsequent) offense. First offense carries 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Second offense carries 5 years to life and a fine of up to $500,000. Third and subsequent offenses carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
Possible defenses to simple drug possession include, depending on the circumstances, lack of evidence proving actual or constructive possession or lack of knowledge of the character of the drugs.
For possession with intent to distribute, possible defenses include a lack of evidence proving an intent to sell or distribute or a loack of evidence proving possession.
For distribution, a possible defense, in addition to the ones listed above, is that of accommodation. What this means is that the illegal drugs were not distributed for a profit. If the court accepts this defense, a charge of felony distribution can be reduced to a lesser class felony with a maximum of 10 years.
Virginia Drug Lawyer
Facing criminal drug charges in Virginia can expose you to serious consequences. You need an attorney who has experience with drug cases. Such an attorney can make sure you get the best outcome in your case. Bryan J. Jones is committed to his clients and will develop a defense strategy tailored just for you. Contact Bryan J. Jones, LLC today.