Virginia laws treat possession of any illegal drug as a serious criminal offense. This includes marijuana, which is considered a legal recreational drug in some states. Unfortunately, you may be charged with a more serious possession with intent to distribute charge for even being in possession of a small amount of an illegal controlled substance. You might be facing a lengthy prison sentence and large fine if convicted, so you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to help build a strong defense for your case.
Classification of Controlled Substances in Virginia
Illegal drugs are separated into five classifications in Virginia based on their redeeming medical qualities and tendency to be abused. These classifications are ranked from the most serious to the least serious in terms of the punishments. Here are some common illegal drugs that fall under each classification:
- Class I. Heroin, ecstasy, LSD, and marijuana—although marijuana has its own separate possession with intent to distribute offenses and penalties
- Class II. Methamphetamine (crystal meth), cocaine, morphine, PCP, and Ritalin
- Class III. Anabolic steroids, codeine, some barbiturates, and depressants
- Class IV. Darvon, Valium, Xanax, and other tranquilizers
- Class V. Codeine-based cough medicines and other over-the-counter medications
Common Possession With Intent to Distribute Charges and Penalties in Virginia
Virginia Code § 18.2-248 makes it unlawful for a person to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance or imitation controlled substance. The penalties are based on the classification of drug that a person was convicted of possessing with the intent to distribute. Possible penalties for different classifications of drugs and other offenses include:
- Schedule I and II. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248(C), for a first offense conviction, the penalty is between 5 and 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. If this is the second offense, there is a minimum sentence of three years in jail with a possibility of five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
- Methamphetamine. Although a Class II controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine has separate penalties under Virginia Code § 18.2-248(C1). These include 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for a first conviction and 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for a second conviction. If this is the third offense, the penalty can be enhanced to 10 years to life with a mandatory three years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
- Schedule III. Virginia Code § 18.2-248(E1) provides that possession with intent to distribute a Schedule III controlled substance is a Class 5 felony, and it is punishable by one to ten years in prison or up to 12 months in jail or a fine not to exceed $2,500.
- Schedule IV. This offense is a Class 6 felony pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-248(E2) that can result in a prison sentence of one to five years in prison, up to 12 months in jail, or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Schedule V. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248(F), possession with intent to distribute a Schedule V drug is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Large volume dealers. Larger volume dealers who manufacture, sell, give, or distribute or intend to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance of a specific amount specified in Virginia Code § 18.2-248(H) can face a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison to life and a fine of up to one million dollars.
- Transporting controlled substances. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248.01, it is a separate felony offense to transport with the intent to sell or distribute at least one ounce of cocaine or a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or five or more pounds of marijuana into Virginia. The penalty is 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars. There is a minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years for a first conviction and 10 years for one or more prior convictions.
Given the lengthy prison sentence and large fines that you may face if convicted of possession with intent to distribute charges, you cannot afford not to fight the charges as hard as you can—even if you are guilty. Our Fairfax drug offense attorneys are here to help. To discuss your charges and possible defenses, call our office or start an online chat to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.