Virginia Drug Crime Lawyer

In Virginia, it is against the law to possess, transport, sell, manufacture, or distribute a controlled substance. The Commonwealth takes a harsh stance against drug crimes. Upon conviction, you could be facing substantial fines, years in prison, and a permanent criminal record.

If you have been accused of a drug crime, your future and your freedom are at risk. Contact a Virginia drug crime lawyer for help. Michael A. Pignone has more than a decade of experience. We will fight to protect your legal rights and help achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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Types of Virginia Drug Offense Cases We Handle

Drug related offenses that our firm can assist you with include the following.

  • Distribution,
  • Manufacturing and cultivation,
  • Trafficking, and
  • Possession.

We can also assist with prescription drug cases and federal drug charges. Whether you were arrested for possession of marijuana in Virginia or any other type of drug offense, contact us to learn more about your options.

Possession

Drug crimes are taken extremely seriously in Virginia, including possession. Though possession carries lesser punishments than distribution or manufacturing, possession can lead to strict penalties and lengthy jail sentences. The Virginia Code § 18.2-250 makes it illegal for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance without a prescription.

Even if the police find drugs on your property, a prosecutor must prove that you knowingly possessed the drugs. Proving knowledge is usually easier when the controlled substance is found on your person. It becomes more complicated when the drugs are located on your property or in your car.

Possession of a controlled substance with a valid prescription is not a crime. However, the prescription must be valid and prescribed specifically for you. If a friend or family member with a prescription gives you a controlled substance, the substance is illegal for you to possess. 

There is another way it might be legal for you to possess a controlled substance outside of having a valid prescription. It is legal to possess a controlled substance with a valid order in the course of professional practice. For example, researchers can have certain controlled substances while conducting their research. Possession of the same substance outside of the professional setting is still prohibited.

Depending on specific circumstances, sometimes the punishment for the first instance of possession can be probation and a diversionary program. However, possession can lead to jail time as well.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Possession with the intent to distribute is a much more serious charge than simple possession. Virginia Code § 18.2-248 makes it a crime to possess a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute that substance.

Factors that prosecutors can use to prove an intent to distribute include the following:

  • Possession of large quantities of controlled substances,
  • Possession of manufacturing equipment, 
  • The presence of large amounts of cash,
  • Possession of packaging materials, and
  • The presence of a customer list.

Even the intent to distribute a Schedule VI drug can lead to serious jail time. If you have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute, it is essential to contact a Virginia drug offense attorney. 

Distribution

Distribution is defined broadly in Virginia and includes any transfer, sale, or gift involving a controlled substance. The same statute that makes possession with intent to distribute illegal also covers actual distribution.

Like possession with the intent to distribute, actually distributing a Schedule I or II drug can carry a sentence of 40 years. The distribution of large quantities or a second conviction can lead to life in prison.

Manufacturing

Virginia Code § 54.2-3401 defines the manufacturing of drugs as “the production, preparation, propagation, conversion, or processing” of a controlled substance. This definition explicitly includes the packaging and labeling of controlled substances.

Manufacturing is another severe drug offense in VA. Like with other drug crimes, the penalties you would face typically depend on the type of drug and the amount manufactured. For example, a first offense for manufacturing more than 100 grams of methamphetamine or 200 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine carries a sentence of 20 years to life. If you are facing a manufacturing charge, you should consult a drug crime lawyer in Virginia.

Conspiracy

According to Virginia Code § 18.2-256, the punishment for a conspiracy to commit any drug crime is equal to the sentence for the drug crime itself. Any agreement to violate the Drug Control Act is punishable under Virginia law. Further, the government will not have to prove the crime was actually carried out. Prosecutors must only prove that you had an agreement to commit the crime. The punishments for conspiracy depend primarily on the type of drug and the amount. A Virginia drug offense attorney can help you aggressively defend against conspiracy charges. 

Virginia Drug Offense Penalties and Charges

Because Virginia takes drug crimes so seriously, almost every potential charge carries the threat of jail or prison in addition to substantial fines.

In Virginia, controlled substances are grouped into six “Schedules” based on the potential for abuse and known medical uses. The consequences of an offense are greatly determined by the classification of the drug(s) in question.

Schedule I and II drugs are associated with the most severe punishments. Examples of Schedule I and II controlled substances commonly charged in Virginia include the following:

  • Heroin,
  • LSD,
  • Fentanyl,
  • PCP,
  • Cocaine,
  • Methadone,
  • Methamphetamine, and
  • Codeine.

People possessing Schedule I or II substances can face up to 10 years in jail. If you are found guilty of having the intent to distribute or actually distributing or manufacturing a Schedule I or II substance, you can end up in prison for life

Schedule III, IV, V, and VI drugs are associated with less severe punishments. These drugs include the following:

  • Anabolic steroids,
  • Valium,
  • Xanax,
  • Other sedatives,
  • Prescription cough medicines with codeine,
  • Inhalants like toluene, and
  • Poppers.

Punishments for possession of these drugs range from a $250 fine to 12 months in jail for the first offense. Distribution or manufacturing can carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years without aggravating factors.

Punishments can depend on factors including the location of the alleged event, a defendant’s past criminal history (particularly for other drug crimes), and the amount of a drug in question.

Drug crimes can be charged as both felonies and misdemeanors, and without an aggressive defense, charges can often overlap. For example, an individual accused of possession may also be facing charges for distribution. Depending on the amount of drug in question, a defendant may also be charged with trafficking.

In addition to fines and time behind bars, a drug crime conviction will leave you with a permanent criminal record. This can affect your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. You may also become ineligible for student loans and other federal benefits. You won’t be able to obtain or hold a professional license or work in certain fields. You could face supervised probation or be required to perform community service. You will be responsible for court costs and fees, and you may have to attend (and pay for) court-mandated substance abuse classes.

Every case will contain unique factors, and to learn more about the specific penalties you may face, contact the firm to discuss the details of your case.

Potential Defense Strategies for Drug Offenses in Virginia

The best approach to your case will depend on the circumstances of your arrest. However, VA drug offense lawyers can use a variety of strategies to help get your charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.

We will begin by investigating the circumstances of your arrest and gathering the available evidence. We will carefully evaluate the actions of the responding officers. We identify any potential violations of your legal rights and look for any mistakes the police may have made at any time before, during, and after your arrest. We can use any potential errors as the basis of your criminal defense.

Some of the most common defense strategies in drug cases include the following.

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion

To pull you over or enter your property, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. If officers did not have reasonable suspicion but proceeded to search you anyway, they may not have a valid case.

Lack of Probable Cause

If the police did not have probable cause for an arrest, we may be able to use this as the basis for your defense.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Police officers must follow the law when searching your person, your home, your car, etc. If they violated your legal rights in any way, we can move to have any evidence they obtained thrown out.

Chain of Custody Errors

The police must follow established protocols for securing and storing evidence in your case. If any of these protocols were violated, it could provide grounds for disallowing the evidence and, ultimately, having your charges dismissed.

We can also look at how the police assert that you were in possession of an illegal substance. Unless you had actual possession—meaning the drugs were in your pocket, handbag, backpack, etc.—the prosecutor may have a harder time proving their case.

Our primary objective is to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. In some cases, we may suggest that you agree to participate in a drug diversion program or deferred adjudication. As a last resort, we may recommend going to trial and making the strongest possible case for you in court.

Drug Diversion Programs

If a defendant meets specific criteria, they may qualify for a deferment program in place of formal charges. Eligibility requires that an offender enters a guilty plea and that it is the first such offense. Careful consideration must be given to this option, and before accepting, the firm can work with you to explore your possible defenses.

Program requirements may include some or all of the following:

  • Completion of a substance abuse program;
  • Payment of all related program costs and fees;
  • Remaining free of alcohol and drugs (subject to random testing);
  • Maintaining employment or making an effort to seek employment;
  • Community service (for felony charges); and
  • License suspension.

Upon completion of the program, the case against you may be dismissed. However, your record may show that you were charged and enrolled in the deferment program. If at any point, a defendant violates the program terms, the charges may be reinstated for which a guilty plea was previously submitted.

Secure Powerful Drug Crimes Defense

Drugs acquired from a man in Virginia.

Whether you have been charged with possession of marijuana or distribution of a Schedule I controlled substance, the Law Offices of Michael A. Pignone can help you overcome the legal hurdles that lie ahead. The firm’s Virginia drug offense lawyer is highly experienced with drug-related offenses and can fight tirelessly to defend your freedom. Did the arresting officer have probable cause? Was there an unlawful search conducted? If you face criminal charges, our Virginia drug crime attorney can help you explore the full range of your legal options.

Our experienced lawyer also handles clients with other types of cases, including:

Call our Virginia drug crime attorney and begin building a hard-hitting defense. Our firm is proud to serve clients throughout Prince William, Fauquier, and Fairfax Counties.