Does Virginia Require Conviction For First-Time Drug Crime Offenders?
In Virginia and across the United States, drug crimes represent serious offenses that can result in confinement and expensive fines. But under Virginia law, there is a separate route for certain people who are facing their first charge for a drug crime. Sometimes referred to as the first-time offender program, this section enables certain people to avoid a conviction on their first violation of state drug laws.
Who is Eligible for the First-Time Offender Program?
Under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-251, a person may qualify for the first-time offender program if they do not have:
- A previous conviction under Virginia law for a crime relating to narcotic/hallucinogenic drugs, cannabis, stimulants, or depressants;
- A previous conviction under other U.S. state or federal law for a crime relating to any narcotic/hallucinogenic drugs, cannabis, stimulants, or depressants; and
- A previous dismissal for a drug crime under the first-time offender program.
Assuming the first-time offender meets the requirements above, they may be able to avoid a conviction for certain, low-level drug crimes. Instead, the offender may be able to secure a sentence of probation and, upon satisfaction of all conditions, have the charge for their drug crime dismissed.
What are the Requirements of the First-Time Offender Program?
Under Section 18.2-251, the requirements to complete the first-time offender program successfully include:
- Complete the required substance abuse treatment or other education programs;
- Abstain from drug and alcohol use throughout the entire term of probation;
- Submit to regular testing for drug and alcohol use throughout the entire term of probation;
- Undertake reasonable efforts to find and maintain employment; and
- Comply with all community service requirements, including a minimum of 24 hours for a misdemeanor offense or 100 hours for a felony crime.
In addition to the requirements above, first-time offenders must submit to fingerprinting. A law enforcement officer is responsible for taking the first-time offender’s fingerprints and ensuring strict adherence to Code of Virginia Section 19.2-390.
What is the Endpoint of the First-Time Offender Program?
If a first-time offender completes all of the requirements of their probation, a Virginia state court will dismiss the charges. The court will not enter a guilty verdict or conviction against the offender. The court will note participation in the first-time offender program, as this route is not available multiple times to the same offender.
If a first-time offender fails to complete any of the probation requirements, a Virginia state court will enter a guilty verdict and conviction. At that point, the offender can face the maximum punishment allowable for their particular offense, up to and including jail or prison time and criminal fines.
Contact an Attorney for Help
If you are facing drug charges, we can help. Reach out to the skilled Leesburg drug crimes lawyers at Simms Showers LLP for assistance with your case.