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Explaining Common Nuisances & Fortified Drug Houses in Virginia


Under Virginia law, it is a drug crime to maintain or operate a property for the purposes of conducting illegal drug transactions. Depending on the circumstances, these properties are referred to as common nuisances or fortified drug houses. Any person who maintains or operates these illegal properties can face severe criminal penalties under Virginia law.

What is a Common Nuisance?

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-258 establishes the definition of a common nuisance. This term applies to certain properties where it is common for illegal drug possession, manufacture, or distribution to occur. It qualifies as a common nuisance if these transactions occur regularly at any:

  • Office;
  • Store;
  • Shop;
  • Restaurant;
  • Dance hall;
  • Theater;
  • Poolroom;
  • Clubhouse;
  • Storehouse;
  • Warehouse;
  • Dwelling house;
  • Apartment;
  • Building of any variety;
  • Vehicle;
  • Vessel;
  • Boat; or
  • Aircraft.

To qualify as a violation of Section 18.2-258, the property owner, manager, or lessor must know — or have a reason to know — that the property is host to regular illegal drug transactions. If the property owner, manager, or lessor is reasonably unaware of the illegal drug transactions in question, the property may not qualify as a common nuisance.

What is the Punishment for a Common Nuisance?

Section 18.2-258 also outlines the punishment for maintaining or operating a common nuisance. Any person who violates this section for the first time is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the offender is subject to a maximum of 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines.

Any person who violates this section for a second or subsequent time is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Upon conviction, the offender is subject to one to five years in prison and fines up to $2,500.

What is a Fortified Drug House?

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-258.02 provides the definition of a fortified drug house. There are two elements to this definition. First, as with common nuisances, the term fortified drug house applies to certain types of properties, including:

  • Offices;
  • Stores;
  • Shops;
  • Restaurants;
  • Dance halls;
  • Theaters;
  • Poolrooms;
  • Clubhouses;
  • Storehouses;
  • Warehouses;
  • Dwelling houses;
  • Apartments; and
  • Other buildings or structures of any variety.

Second, in order to qualify as a fortified drug house, the property in question must also be:

  • Reinforced or altered structurally to impede law enforcement;
  • Used to manufacture or distribute illegal drugs or marijuana; and
  • Subject to a valid search warrant.

What is the Punishment for a Fortified Drug House?

Section 18.2-258.02 also details the punishment for maintaining or operating a fortified drug house. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a Class 5 felony. Upon conviction, the offender is subject to one to 10 years in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about drug crimes under Virginia law, it can be highly valuable to reach out to an established criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg drug crimes lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have defended clients across hundreds of jury trials, including numerous drug crime cases. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

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