Unfortunately, drug possession laws in Virginia are extremely tough. If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance, you can expect the prosecutor to aggressively prosecute you. You need to fight back by developing a strong defense to avoid the harshest penalties you could face—even if you are charged with a misdemeanor. This is not a time to try to represent yourself. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is crucial for the outcome of your criminal case, which could have ramifications in your life long after you complete any sentence.
What Is Possession of a Controlled Substance?
In Virginia, a controlled substance—or drug—is defined as a drug or substance listed in the statutory classification of drugs. Alcohol and tobacco are not controlled substances. Virginia law defines possession of a controlled substance very liberally. You do not have to be holding onto any drugs or have them in a purse or pocket to be charged with this crime. The legal definition of drug possession only requires you to have the substance “within your control.” This means that you could be considered in possession of a drug if it is in your car glove compartment, on a table in your house, in a cupboard in your kitchen, or in a box under your bed.
Classification Schedule of Drugs Under Virginia’s Drug Possession Laws
Drugs are classified into one of six schedules based on the classification of controlled substances under federal drug possession laws. The seriousness of the charge you face will depend on the classification of the drug, which is dependent on how serious and dangerous the federal government has determined certain drugs to be. Drugs are classified in the following six schedules:
- Class I. Class I drugs are the most dangerous and have the most potential to be addictive. They also have no medical use. Drugs in this classification include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
- Class II. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and severe dependency but do have some medical uses. Possession of PCP, cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine fall within this classification.
- Class III. Class III drugs have less potential for abuse and dependency than Class II drugs and have accepted medical uses. Examples are codeine, anabolic steroids, and some depressants.
- Class IV. This classification includes many prescription drugs that have a medical use but also the potential for dependency, such as valium, Darvon, Xanax, and other tranquilizers and sedatives.
- Class V. Cough medications with codeine are the drugs within this classification. While generally used for medicinal purposes, they carry a limited risk of abuse and dependency.
- Class VI. This includes substances that are not really drugs but that can be abused recreationally and includes certain inhalants.
While classified as a Class I drug under federal law, marijuana possession falls outside of these six classifications in Virginia. It is considered a misdemeanor with its own penalty structure.
What Penalties Could You Face If You Are Convicted of Drug Possession?
Many drug possession convictions have mandatory minimum sentences, giving the judge little leeway in sentencing you if you are convicted. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended if you are convicted of one of these crimes. This is why hiring a criminal defense attorney is crucial to getting the charges against you dismissed or reducing the charges—and penalties—as much as possible. Class I and II offenses are the most serious and are felonies. Class II, IV, V, and VI are misdemeanors. You could face the following penalties:
- Class I and II. Up to 10 years in prison, or confinement in a jail for up to 12 months and fines of up to $2,500, or both.
- Class III. Confinement in jail for up to 12 months or a fine not exceeding $2,500, or both.
- Class IV. Confinement in jail for up to six months or a fine not exceeding $2,500, or both.
- Class V. Fine of up to $500.
- Class VI. Fine of up to $250.
Let Our Experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys Help With Drug Possession Charges
If you have been charged with any drug possession charge, you are facing an aggressive prosecution, possible incarceration in prison, and fines. In addition, you would have a criminal record for the rest of your life which could hamper your ability to obtain a job, a professional license, a loan, and much more. Do not face these charges without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the process and vigorously raise all of your defenses.
At Greenspun Shapiro PC, we will immediately begin working on your defense and have extensive experience negotiating with the police and prosecutors to ensure that the charges against you are dropped or are reduced to the least serious charge. Call our Fairfax law firm today at (703) 352-0100 to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help you.