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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Drug-Free Zones in Loudoun County

Drug-Free Zones in Loudoun County


The possession, sale, manufacturing, and distribution provision in Section 18.2-255.2 is a remnant of 1980s “get tough on drugs” laws. This law makes such possession, sale, manufacturing, and distribution a separate felony if the defendant was within 1,000 feet of a prohibited place.

A thousand feet is basically three football fields. Many parts of Loudoun County, such as southeast Sterling, are very densely populated. Almost every street corner in town is within three football fields of a prohibited place.

Typically, prosecutors use penalty enhancements whenever possible. So, it’s not enough to build a drug crime defense. A Leesburg criminal defense lawyer must also be prepared to refute drug-free zone and other enhancement charges, because more than likely, they’re coming.

Secure State Facility

Courthouses and jails immediately come to mind when someone says “secure state facility.” The law is a bit unclear as to whether the 1,000-foot line begins at the door, the outside security gate, or the edge of the parking lot. It’s also uncertain whether the 1,000 feet is a direct line or follows the streets. Details like that could matter.

Other secure state facilities include probation offices and halfway houses. These facilities don’t look like secure state facilities. There’s usually no guard or security gate. Additionally, they might be inside mini-malls or other larger properties. The 1,000-foot line’s starting point is even harder to pinpoint in these cases.

Public Park or Library

Restricted use, privately-owned facilities, like HOA swimming pools, definitely don’t count. Publicly accessible facilities that are privately owned, such as church playgrounds and private university libraries, don’t count either.

Other facilities are publicly owned but not publicly operated. The government hires contractors to maintain the park or a private organization, like a Boy Scout troop, occasionally picks up trash in common areas. As far as the drug-free zone enhancement is concerned, such facilities are in a gray area.

Such arguments might not convince a judge. But a judge must schedule a pretrial hearing, which prosecutors must prepare for and attend. Frequently, they’d like to offer a favorable deal and avoid that time-consuming process.

School Bus/School Bus Stop

Regular school bus stops are rather straightforward. Field trip school buses and bus stops are another matter. If the second grade takes a field trip to the chocolate factory, for a few hours, the chocolate factory becomes a prohibited place. This designation, and this temporary status, is arguably outside the law’s intent.

Day Care Center/Public or Private School

Virginia’s school designation doesn’t include a children-must-be-present requirement. Therefore, a school is still a school in the middle of the night or the middle of summer, although no children are at risk. Furthermore, a “school” could also be an administrative facility.

As for day cares, Virginia law specifically excludes day cares that double as private residences. So, if the janitor sleeps in the back room or employees occasionally stay overnight during severe weather, the day care might not be a prohibited place.

Virginia’s day care definition also includes a collection of thirteen or more children at any location in a day care-like setting, such as an after school tutorial program or a test preparation center.

Count on a Dedicated 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, after-hours, and home visits are available.



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