Can First-Time Drug Offenders Get a Reduced Sentence in Virginia?
The Commonwealth of Virginia prohibits various types of drug crimes, including, but not limited to, possession and distribution offenses. Upon conviction for a drug crime in Virginia, the offender is subject to serious criminal penalties. Significant time in jail or prison and expensive fines are common penalties in this context. That being said, Virginia recognizes that certain first-time offenders should be eligible for a more lenient sentence.
Who is eligible for the First Offender Program?
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-251 provides specific limitations on eligibility for the First Offender Program. Under this section, the First Offender Program is only available to individuals who:
- Have not been convicted previously of any drug crime under state or federal law, relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, stimulant drugs, depressant drugs, or hallucinogenic drugs;
- Did not have a previous charge dismissed under the First Offender Program; or
- Pleaded guilty or not guilty to possession of a controlled substance, in violation of Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250.
In the circumstances, the Virginia courts are allowed to defer further proceedings and place of the alleged offender on probation. In other words, if the offender satisfies the terms of their probation, they can avoid a criminal conviction on their record.
What are the Requirements of the First Offender Program?
Section 18.2-251 also outlines the requirements of the First Offender Program. Under this section, the terms and conditions of probation under the program include:
- Submitting fingerprints and photographs to a law enforcement officer;
- Completing any substance abuse treatment and assessments required by the court;
- Completing any education programs or services required by the court;
- Abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and other substances throughout the entire probationary period, and submitting to testing as needed;
- Exerting reasonable efforts to find and keep a job; and
- Satisfying all community service required by the court, which is a minimum of 24 hours for misdemeanor offenses and 100 hours for felony offenses.
Who Pays for the First Offender Program?
Payment responsibility for the First Offender Program appears under Section 18.2-251 as well. The person participating in the program is responsible for paying all costs, including testing, treatment, assessment, and screening. If a first-time offender is determined to be indigent – meaning they do not have sufficient resources to pay for the program – the court may defer the cost of this program.
What Happens if Someone Violates the First Offender Program?
Section 18.2-251 also explains what happens if someone violates the conditions of the program. Upon violation of any term or condition of this program, the court may enter a guilty verdict against the offender. At that point, the offender is subject to the maximum allowable criminal penalties under Virginia law, including fines and jail or prison time.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal assistance with drug crime charges under Virginia law, it can be incredibly helpful to contact an adept Leesburg drug crimes lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP feature more than 140 years of collective legal experience in criminal defense and other fields, including drug crimes charges. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.