Drug-Free Zones in Leesburg
Virginia is well-known for its harsh drug laws. If officers catch defendants with or selling drugs in a drug-free zone, prosecutors could tack on an additional felony charge, even if the drug was marijuana and the amount is more than a half-ounce, which is roughly a dozen dime bags. These charges don’t hold up in court unless prosecutors establish two basic elements, and they establish them beyond any reasonable doubt.
Since the bar is so high, a Leesburg drug crime lawyer can usually successfully resolve these charges, especially since the offenses are nonviolent. Furthermore, many jurors see drug offenses as health and safety matters as opposed to criminal law matters. So, they’re hesitant to find defendants guilty and issue long prison terms. The changed environment also motivates prosecutors to offer favorable deals. However, a defense lawyer must be skilled enough to take advantage of these opportunities.
Public parks, recreation centers, community centers, and public libraries are drug-free zones. There’s a significant difference between publicly-owned facilities and publicly-accessible facilities. Many church and neighborhood parks are publicly accessible but not publicly owned. Furthermore, if a private individual donated the money for the park or other facility, a Leesburg criminal defense attorney could argue the facility isn’t publicly owned.
Additionally, many apartment complexes set aside a few units as public or subsidized housing. It’s unclear whether these facilities qualify as publicly owned.
Moreover, the prohibited area extends 1,000 feet beyond the border in all directions. One thousand feet is roughly the length of a football field. Almost every street corner in Leesburg is within one football field of a park or recreation area.
School Bus Stop
The aforementioned 1,000 yard extension also applies to school bus stops. It’s unclear if the prohibition includes private schools or other non-public schools.
This prohibition only applies if children were present at the time of the offense. Proof that the offense occurred during a normal school bus pick-up time, such as early in the morning, usually isn’t sufficient. Instead, prosecutors must produce a credible witness who saw children at the bus stop at or near the time of the offense.
Furthermore, school bus stops change constantly. In fact, the stop schedule usually varies month to month. So, by the time these cases go to court, prosecutors often cannot place a bus or children within 1,000 yards of the crime scene.
Day Care Center or School
Unlike the school bus stop prohibition, this prohibition applies whether children were present or not. This omission relieves prosecutors of an important burden and extends the prohibition to nights, weekends, and school breaks.
These omissions could make this prohibition unconstitutional. Clearly, it’s designed to protect children. But if no children were present, no one needed protection.
Additionally, not all schools look like schools. Many times, schools hold classes in mini-malls or other such facilities. It’s unclear where the 1,000 yard marker begins in these cases. Does it start at the door of the school itself, the mini-mall’s front door, or the mini-mall’s parking lot?
In all these cases, geography is only part of the equation. Prosecutors must also establish the drug offense, be in possession with intent to distribute or drug trafficking. Incidentally, giving away controlled substances is usually drug trafficking in Virginia.
Connect With a Diligent Loudoun County Lawyer
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.