Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Offenses

If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Virginia, you may have many questions about the charges you face and possible penalties if you are convicted. Here, our skilled drug crime attorneys share answers to common questions in our FAQ section.

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  • I’ve heard that the penalties are more severe if I am convicted of a cocaine-related crime. Is this true?

    Gloved Hand Holding a Bag of CocaineIn Virginia, possession or distribution of cocaine are very serious offenses. Cocaine and other controlled substances are divided into different schedules depending on their medicinal use, if any, risk of abuse, and danger of addiction. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which is one of the most severe classifications.

    Penalties You May Face for Cocaine Possession

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-250, it is unlawful for a person to knowingly and intentionally possess cocaine or other Schedule I or II drugs without a valid prescription. In order for you to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew or had reason to know that you were possessing cocaine.

    Possession of a Schedule II drug is a Class 5 felony offense. If convicted of possession of cocaine, you may be sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

    Penalties Are Increased for the Sale, Distribution, or Manufacture of Cocaine

    Virginia Code § 18.2-248 makes it illegal to sell, distribute or manufacture cocaine. This is a serious felony offense that comes with special penalties:

    • First offense. Five to 40-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $500,000
       
    • Second offense. Five years to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum three-year sentence, and a fine not to exceed $500,000
       
    • Third or subsequent offense. Mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison and a fine of not more than $500,000

    You may face even more severe penalties if convicted of distributing, or selling large quantities of cocaine. Penalties are based on the quantity of cocaine and include:

    • 500 grams. Five years to life in prison, with a five-year mandatory sentence, and a fine of up to $1 million
       
    • 5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine, its salts, or isomers, or 2.5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base. 20 years to life in prison, with a 20-year mandatory sentence, and a fine not to exceed $1 million

    Have you been charged with cocaine possession or distribution in Northern Virginia or Fairfax? Our experienced Fairfax drug offense attorneys can help you develop a strong defense strategy so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our Fairfax office or start a live chat today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What are the penalties for forging a drug prescription?

    Prescription Drug Bottles That Were Obtained by Forging PrescriptionsIt is a felony offense to engage in prescription drug fraud, such as forging a physician’s prescription in order to obtain opiate-based painkillers or other medications. This crime is prosecuted aggressively in Fairfax and Northern Virginia as one way to combat the increasingly prevalent problem of prescription drug abuse. If you have been charged with forging a drug prescription or a related offense, it is imperative that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you develop a strong defense strategy to the charges you face.

    Forging a Drug Prescription Offense and Penalties

    Virginia Code § 18.2-258.1 makes it a crime to forge a drug prescription and to engage in a wide range of activities in an effort to obtain drugs through deceit, forgery, or fraud. This law makes it illegal to:

    • Forge, use, or attempt to use a fake prescription
       
    • Use a false name or ID to get or fill a prescription
       
    • Use a fake prescription label
       
    • Steal prescription drugs or prescriptions from an employer
       
    • Give false information about one’s health to a physician to obtain a prescription

    Forging a prescription and other related-crimes under Virginia Code § 18.2-258.1 are charged as a Class 6 felony. If convicted, you may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, your license would be suspended for six months. However, there are also potential outcomes to avoid a felony conviction for first time offense prescription fraud charges. It is important to speak to an attorney determine the best outcome in your case. 

    Penalties You May Face for Aiding in Illegally Obtaining Prescription Drugs

    It is also a crime to aid someone in illegally obtaining prescription drugs under Virginia Code § 18.2-258.2. In order to be charged with this crime, a person must be paid for the assistance and know that the prescription drugs were being illegally obtained. The payment can take many forms, such as money, favors, or goods. A first offense is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, but a subsequent conviction would be Class 6 felony.  

    Have you been charged with forging a drug prescription or a related crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Our experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorneys can help you fight the charges so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. If this is your first offense, we may be able to assist you with other options to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor offense. To learn more about your options and how we can assist you, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • I was arrested for selling drugs near a school. What is this offense and what penalties might I face?

    School Traffic Sign by an Elementary School It is illegal to sell, manufacture, or distribute controlled substances near a school ground or other designated properties in Virginia. This is a separate felony offense from the crime of selling, manufacturing, or distributing drugs, and you may face harsh penalties if convicted.

    What Is the Crime of Manufacturing, Distributing, or Selling Drugs Near a School?

    Virginia Code § 18.2-255.2 makes it a felony crime to sell, manufacture, or distribute controlled substances, imitation drugs, or marijuana on or near certain properties. These properties include:

    • Grounds or buildings of a private or public elementary or secondary education school, institute of higher learning, or licensed day care center, or within 1,000 feet of these grounds or buildings
       
    • On a school bus, at a school bus stop, or within 1,000 feet of a bus stop when children are waiting to be picked up or dropped off from a school or a school-related activity
       
    • On or withing 1,000 feet of the property or grounds of a state facility 

    If convicted, you may face these penalties:

    • First offense. There is a sentence of one to five years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $100,000.
       
    • Second or subsequent offense. If you are convicted of a second or subsequent offense that involves a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance or more than one-half ounce of marijuana, there is a mandatory minimum one-year prison sentence that must be served consecutively with other sentences.

    It may be possible to get the charges reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor if you can show that you sold the drugs or marijuana only to accommodate another individual and with no intent to receive a profit or to get the recipient addicted. The punishment can include up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.

    If you are facing drug charges in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you build a strong defense so that you may avoid the harsh penalties you face. Start an online chat to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about your options.

     

  • What charges can I face if I am arrested for distributing drugs to a minor?

    In Virginia, any violation of controlled substance laws is prosecuted aggressively. Being charged with distributing drugs to a minor is a serious felony offense, and the punishment can include a lengthy prison sentence and a large fine. If you have been arrested for this crime, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    What Is the Penalty for Distributing Drugs to a Minor?

    Under Virginia Code § 18.2-555, it is a felony crime to distribute controlled substances to a minor. Here are ways that an individual who is 18 years old or older can violate this law:

    • By intentionally or knowingly distributing any drug classified as a Schedule I-IV drug or marijuana to a person under 18 years old who is at least three years younger than him.
       
    • By intentionally or knowingly causing a person under 18 years old to assist in the distribution of a Schedule I-IV controlled substance.

    If convicted, an individual faces harsh penalties that include a mandatory minimum prison sentence. Here are the potential sentences for violations of Virginia Code § 18.2-555:

    • The sentence for distributing drugs to a minor or causing a minor to assist in distributing them is a prison sentence of not less than 10 years and not more than 50 years and a fine not to exceed $100,000.
       
    • If the conviction is for a Schedule I or II controlled substance or one or more ounces of marijuana, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Examples of Schedule I and II drugs include heroin, PCP, ecstasy, cocaine, and opium.
       
    • If the conviction involves less than one ounce of marijuana, there is a two-year mandatory minimum sentence. 

    It is also a crime to distribute to or cause a minor to assist in distributing an imitation controlled substance. This is a Class 6 felony with a sentence range of one to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

    Are you being charged with a drug offense in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? Call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys to learn about your options and how we can help you put on a strong defense to the charges you face.

  • Can I Be Charged for Drug Possession or Distribution if The Drugs Are Not on Me or in my Vehicle?

    Man nervous about being charged for drug posessionIf you have illegal drugs in your pocket, in your hand, or in a bag or other container you are carrying, you are considered to be in actual possession of the drugs.  However, the law also recognizes another principle called “constructive possession,” which allows suspects to be convicted of drug crimes even if they are not in actual possession of the drugs.  Thus, even if the suspect is across the street from an illicit substance, he may still be charged if the government can prove the drugs were constructively possessed.  
     
    There are two legal elements for constructive possession:
     
    • First, did the suspect have knowledge of the substance’s nature and character?  In other words, did the person know, or have reason to know, they were in possession of an illegal substance?  They do not need to know the exact type of substance, however. It would not matter, for example, that a suspect thought he possessed heroin but actually possessed cocaine. 
       
    • The second element is whether the suspect knowingly exercised dominion and control over the drug.  For this, the court asks whether the suspect could access or do something with the drugs he is accused of constructively possessing.  If he had no authority to use the drugs, move them, or do anything else with them, then the person does not have dominion and control over the drug. 
    In deciding whether constructive possession has been proved, all of the circumstances present must be considered.  If the government fails to prove either aspect necessary for constructive possession (i.e., dominion and control or knowledge of the illegal character of the drug), then the individual should be found not guilty.  The good news is that Virginia recognizes that a suspect’s mere presence in an area where drugs are is not enough on its own to prove the suspect is constructively possessing drugs.  This is pretty much where the good news ends, because the suspect’s presence in the area is still a factor in the overall analysis of whether the suspect constructively possessed the drugs.  
     
    In addition to the suspect’s presence, the court will consider things like whether the drugs were in plain view of the suspect or whether the suspect would have been able to detect the drugs because of an overwhelming smell or other obvious characteristic.  Courts will also look at the behavior and statements of the individuals.  Furtive movements, like the appearance of something being hidden in the vehicle or thrown out of the vehicle, are often strong circumstantial indicators of knowledge and dominion and control.  A suspect’s admission that they knew the drugs were present is extremely informative and will often seal the deal on the issue of constructive possession.  
     
    There are numerous factors other than the ones discussed here that play into the determination of whether a suspect is in constructive possession of a drug.  If you have been charged with a drug possession or distribution charge, but the drugs were not on you, then there may be a number of legal issues with the government’s case.  Our drug offense attorneys are experienced in evaluating and defending such issues and can help you fight your charge.  Give us a call today to see how we can help.

  • Drug Residue – Can I Still Be Charged?

    Lab test for drug residue on paraphernaliaDrug users often carry paraphernalia used to consume drugs.  Marijuana users may have wraps, bowls, bongs, or a host of other devices.  A cocaine user may have a bowl, bill, or straw.  Heroin users may have spoons and needles.  Most drug users also are not the most scrupulous when it comes to cleaning, disinfecting, and making sure there is no drug residue left on their paraphernalia.  So what happens if the police seize your paraphernalia, test the residue, and charge you with a misdemeanor or felony drug possession charge?

    You may be thinking, “But it was only residue!  I wouldn’t even be able to get high off that!”  Surely if you cannot use the drug for the intended purpose – getting high – you cannot be charged.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  

    In Virginia and in federal court, that argument is not a good one.  Courts have handily rejected those types of arguments.  If a lab test is performed on the residue, and the residue is returned as a prohibited substance, then the charge would be proper.  However, just because there is residue, does not mean there is a prohibited drug present.

    The Virginia legislature has outlawed the possession of specific drugs.  Those drugs are defined by their chemical composition.  This means that if the residue that remains in the paraphernalia or elsewhere does not match, it may be that the government will not be able to move forward with the case and will have to dismiss the drug charge.  

    If you have been charged with marijuana possession or another drug charge, contact the attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC today to see what can be done.  Our attorneys are familiar with a wide range of drug charges and the legal issues that arise out of such cases.  Let us help you fight your drug charge.