Manassas Drug Crimes Attorney
Drug crimes are some of the most commonly prosecuted cases in Manassas. While this has always been the case, the prosecution of drug crimes ramped up in recent years due mostly to the opioid epidemic.
The result is that police and prosecutors take these crimes very seriously. If you face drug charges, it is important that you reach out to a dedicated Manassas drug crimes attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, our lawyer has handled thousands of cases on behalf of our clients, including drug possession and drug trafficking cases. We take a comprehensive approach to every case we handle, conducting detailed investigations into the government’s case to identify any weaknesses.
Punishments for a Virginia Drug Conviction
Virginia state law breaks down drug crimes into three categories, depending on the facts surrounding the arrest:
- Drug possession,
- Drug sales, and
- Drug manufacturing.
The two most common drug crimes are drug possession and drug distribution. However, it is important to keep in mind that the government can charge you with selling drugs even if there is no direct evidence of a sale. This is because courts will look to the surrounding circumstances to determine whether you intended to sell drugs. For example, did police find empty baggies, scales, or large quantities of drugs that were not consistent with personal use?
Typically, drug possession is the least serious charge, and drug manufacturing is the most serious. However, the seriousness of an offense depends on the type of drug the government claims you possessed, the amount of the drug, and whether you have any prior drug convictions on your record.
For example, if this is your first drug crimes arrest, you may qualify for a diversionary program. A diversionary program allows you to defer the case in exchange for your agreement to participate in drug treatment. If you successfully complete the program, the government will withdraw the charges against you. However, just because you are eligible for a diversionary program does not mean you should take that route. The best option is to speak with an experienced Manassas drug crime attorney to evaluate the government’s case and make an informed decision from there.
If you do not qualify for a diversionary program or choose not to participate, you could face up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for drug possession. The punishments for selling drugs in Manassas are much more serious. For example, if convicted of selling more than 100 grams of heroin, you would face a maximum punishment of five years to life in prison.
If you face Manassas drug charges, do not give up hope. There is always something a lawyer can do to help your chances of beating the case or at least staying out of jail.
How a Manassas Drug Crimes Attorney Can Help
After police arrest you for a drug crime, it may feel like all hope is lost. However, that is not the case. There are several legal and factual defenses that apply in drug cases. An experienced Manassas drug crimes attorney can help you determine which defense is the strongest in your particular case.
For example, one of the most successful defenses in any Manassas drug case is a motion to suppress physical evidence. When police officers investigate drug crimes, they must respect the suspect’s constitutional rights. Thus, if a police officer stopped you on the street, pulled you over, or searched your belongings without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, any evidence they recovered may not be admitted at trial.
Depending on the situation, your lawyer may be able to challenge the government’s claim that you “possessed” the drugs. For example, if police officers arrested you after finding drugs in a car with several other occupants, who’s to say the drugs were yours? It’s up to the prosecution to prove you intended to exercise control over the drugs.
These are just a few defenses that Manassas drug crime attorneys use to defeat the government’s case.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I Have to Consent to a Search of My Car?
Many Manassas drug crimes stem from traffic stops. A police officer may pull you over for speeding or some other traffic violation and, at some point in the process, ask you if they can search your car. This is very common. However, few motorists are aware that they are under no obligation to allow a vehicle search.
Generally, police officers cannot search your car unless they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion that you violated the law. Committing a traffic offense does not give an officer the right to search your car—they must be able to point to some fact suggesting that there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle. However, police officers can—and often do—ask motorists for their consent to search the vehicle. If you give consent to a vehicle search, the officer does not need probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Under the United States and Virginia constitutions, you have an absolute right to refuse consent to a vehicle search. Of course, don’t expect the police officer to tell you this. Unfortunately, police officers are often less interested in respecting your constitutional rights than in making an arrest.
The bottom line is that if you get pulled over, you do not have to give consent to the officer for a search of your car. In fact, if the officer is asking for your consent, it’s a good sign that they lack legal justification to search it. This is because if an officer has probable cause to search your car, they do not need your permission.
If you’ve been arrested after a questionable traffic stop, a Manassas drug crime lawyer can help you determine the best way to challenge the officer’s actions in hopes of keeping any evidence they recovered out of trial.
Can I Be Charged with Selling Drugs Without Evidence of a Sale?
Yes, you can be charged with selling drugs even if there is no direct evidence that you engaged in a drug transaction. The reason for this is that, under Virginia law, it is not only illegal to sell drugs but also to possess them with the intent to “sell, give or distribute” them.
For example, assume you are stopped by a police officer based on his claim you matched the description of a robbery suspect. The officer stops you and eventually determines that you are not the suspect he’s looking for, but not before he pats you down and finds a baggie tucked into your waistband containing 60 small baggies of heroin. The officer then continues his pat-down and finds several hundred dollars in small bills in various jacket pockets.
In this situation, it’s almost certain that the government will charge you with possession with intent to distribute heroin. The government’s attorney will argue that the only reason you would have that many baggies and all those small bills is that you were selling drugs. Of course, this requires the jury to believe the inference the government is asking it to make.
This is where an experienced Manassas drug crimes lawyer can help. By providing an alternate explanation for the drugs and money, your attorney may be able to raise a reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind.
Can I Be Charged with a Drug Crime If the Drugs Weren’t on Me?
Yes, the government can prove drug charges against you even if the drugs were not recovered from you, your vehicle, or your belongings. While this may sound counterintuitive, it’s based on a concept called “constructive possession.” Constructive possession is a legal doctrine that allows judges or juries to make an inference that, based on the surrounding circumstances, you “possessed” the drugs.
One common example of constructive possession involves someone who sells out of a stash location. Say police officers are conducting a stakeout and observe you engage in what they believe to be a drug transaction after reaching behind a flower pot on someone’s porch. As they approach, the buyer takes off, and the officers arrest you. The officers then check the flower pot and find narcotics tucked behind it. In this case, although you didn’t have those drugs on you at the time of your arrest, the government will still claim you possessed them.
Contact Our Manassas Drug Crime Lawyer
If you face drug charges in Manassas, it is imperative that you reach out to a dedicated criminal charges defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone, we help good people get out of bad situations. Our Manassas drug crimes lawyer has extensive experience handling all types of serious narcotics offenses. We also represent clients charged with traffic offenses, such as DUI and reckless driving. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a lawyer, give us a call today. You can reach us at the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone. You can also get in touch with us through our online contact form.