Evaluating Three Common Drug Crimes Under Virginia Law
Often referred to collectively as drug crimes, Virginia law establishes a general prohibition against the possession or distribution of controlled substances. In general, the penalties increase for possession of more dangerous substances, like heroin or cocaine. Substances like these are generally classified in Schedule I or II, due to their potential for harm or addiction. Substances in Schedules III through VI are less likely to cause harm or result in abuse.
Armed with that background information, it is time to evaluate three common drug crimes under Virginia law: possession of a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance, and possession with intent to distribute.
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250 provides the state laws against the possession of controlled substances. The Drug Control Act (Code of Virginia Section 54.1-3400 et seq.), though, does create narrow exceptions for medical use and other approved purposes.
Section 18.2-250 also provides the penalty structure for possession crimes. Unlawful possession of:
- Schedule I/II Controlled Substances — Is a Class 5 felony, punishable by imprisonment for one to 10 years and fines up to $2,500;
- Schedule III Controlled Substances — Is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines;
- Schedule IV Controlled Substances — Is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and $1,000 in fines;
- Schedule V Controlled Substances — Is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500; or
- Schedule VI Controlled Substances — Is a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $250.
- Distribution of a Controlled Substance
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-248 makes it illegal to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute controlled substances. Violations of this section are often referred to collectively as distribution crimes. As with possession crimes, the Drug Control Act carves out similar exceptions for medical use and other approved purposes.
The penalty structure for distribution crimes also appears under Section 18.2-248. Distribution crimes involving:
- Schedule I/II (first or second offense) — Are punishable as a felony crime with the possibility of imprisonment for five to 40 years and fines up to $500,000;
- Schedule I/II (third or subsequent offense) — Are punishable as a felony crime with the possibility of imprisonment for 10 years to life and fines up to $500,000;
- Schedule III — Are punishable as a Class 5 felony with the same penalties described previously;
- Schedule IV — Are punishable as a Class 6 felony crime with the possibility of imprisonment for one to five years and fines up to $2,500; or
- Schedule V/VI — Are punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor with the same penalties described previously.
- Possession with Intent to Distribute
Section 18.2-248 also prohibits any person from possessing controlled substances with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute. There is not a precise standard for when a possession crime becomes possession with intent to distribute. The circumstances of a case will dictate whether the offender intended to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute the controlled substance in question.
Under Section 18.2-248, possession with intent to distribute is punishable in exactly the same way as distribution crimes. Stated otherwise, the punishment remains the same — and largely dependent upon the type of drug in question — whether or not the offender was able to complete the distribution crime.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about Virginia charges for a drug crime, it can be highly valuable to consult with a formidable criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg drug crimes lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have proven legal experience defending against a variety of drug crimes at the state and federal levels. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.