How Does Virginia Punish Drug Crimes Involving Minors?
The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws against various drug crimes, such as possession or distribution. In the interest of protecting the health and safety of children, Virginia law has a separate categorization for certain drug crimes involving minors. As explained below, Virginia prohibits any person from advertising drug paraphernalia or distributing drugs to minors. Any person who violates these laws will likely face criminal punishment, up to and including confinement and fines.
Advertising Drug Paraphernalia to Minors
As established in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-255.1, it is unlawful to knowingly advertise certain drug paraphernalia to minors. If the paraphernalia in question is used to consume marijuana or other illegal drugs, it can qualify as a violation of this section.
A violation of Section 18.2-255.1 is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted for this type of misdemeanor, the offender can face a 12-month jail sentence and up to $2,500 in criminal fines, either or both.
Distributing Drugs to Minors
As detailed in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-255, it is illegal to distribute certain drugs to minors under 18 years old. More specifically, this section prohibits any adult from:
- Distributing marijuana or a Schedule I, II, III, or IV controlled substance to a minor; or
- Causing any minor to assist with the distribution of marijuana or a Schedule I, II, III, or IV controlled substance.
A violation of Section 18.2-255 is punishable as a felony. If convicted for this type of felony, the offender can face a prison sentence between 10 and 50 years, as well as criminal fines up to $100,000.
That being said, Section 18.2-255 creates mandatory minimum penalties for certain violations. If the offense involved a Schedule I or II controlled substance — like heroin or cocaine — there is a minimum prison sentence of five years. The same applies to offenses involving one ounce or more of marijuana. For less than one ounce of marijuana, there is a minimum prison sentence of two years.
On a related note, Section 18.2-255 also makes it illegal to distribute imitation controlled substances to a minor. These imitations mimic actual drugs and controlled substances, but are not exactly the same.
A violation of Section 18.2-255 involving an imitation controlled substance is a Class 6 felony. If convicted for this type of felony, the offender can face a prison sentence between one and five years, as well as criminal fines up to $2,500.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about charges for a drug crime in Virginia, it can be decidedly helpful to reach out to a skilled criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg drug crime lawyers at Simms Showers LLP feature more than 140 years of combined legal experience across thousands of trials. We have a deep appreciation for the nuances of criminal defense, including various types of drug crimes and other offenses. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.