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Is It A Virginia Drug Crime To Maintain Common Nuisances Or Fortified Drug Houses?

Drug1

The Virginia Criminal Code features many laws against and penalties for various drug crimes, including unlawful possession or distribution. On top of these standard crimes, Virginia law also prohibits tenants, owners, and similar actors from using a property in furtherance of possession or distribution crimes. When properties are used in this unlawful way, they can be considered common nuisances or fortified drug houses and are subject to criminal consequences.

What is the Definition of a Common Nuisance?

The definition of a common nuisance appears at Code of Virginia Section 18.2-258. There are two elements to a common nuisance under Virginia law. First, this section requires an owner, agent, operator, tenant, or similar actor to knowingly allow their property to be:

  • Frequented by people under the influence of illegally obtained controlled substances;
  • Utilized for the purpose of illegally obtaining possession of, manufacturing, or distributing controlled substances; or
  • Used for the illegal possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances.

Second, this section only applies to the following types of property:

  • Aircraft;
  • Apartments;
  • Buildings of any kind;
  • Boats;
  • Clubhouses;
  • Dance halls;
  • Dwelling houses;
  • Restaurants;
  • Offices;
  • Poolrooms;
  • Shops;
  • Storehouses;
  • Stores;
  • Theaters;
  • Vehicles;
  • Vessels; and
  • Warehouses.

What is the Penalty for Maintaining a Common Nuisance?

Section 18.2-258 also explains the Virginia penalty for maintaining a common nuisance. This punishment applies to any owner, agent, operator, tenant, or similar actor who permits, establishes, keeps, or maintains a common nuisance. Any person who does so will face the penalty scheme outlined below:

  • First Offense — Class 1 misdemeanor charges and a maximum punishment of 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in criminal fines; or
  • Second or Subsequent Offense — Class 6 felony charges and a potential punishment of one to five years in prison and up to $2,500 in criminal fines.

In addition, there is another potential consequence of maintaining a common nuisance. Under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-258.01, any property deemed a common nuisance may be subject to an injunction. An attorney for the Commonwealth or any citizen located near the common nuisance may file a lawsuit and request an injunction. If granted, these injunctions prevent any owner or operator of the property in question from maintaining a common nuisance.

What is the Definition of a Fortified Drug House?

The definition of a fortified drug house appears at Code of Virginia Section 18.2-258.02. There are two elements to a fortified drug house under Virginia law. First, the property in question must be:

  • Substantially modified and reinforced with the intent to delay, deter, or impede law entry by law enforcement officers;
  • Used for the purpose of illegally manufacturing or distributing controlled substances; and
  • Subject to a valid search warrant.

Second, this section only applies to the following types of property:

  • Apartments;
  • Buildings or structures of any kind;
  • Clubhouses;
  • Dance halls;
  • Dwelling houses;
  • Restaurants;
  • Offices;
  • Poolrooms;
  • Shops;
  • Storehouses;
  • Stores;
  • Theaters; or
  • Warehouses.

What is the Penalty for Maintaining a Fortified Drug House?

Section 18.2-258.02 also furnishes the Virginia penalty for operating or maintaining a fortified drug house. Any person who operates or maintains a fortified drug house will likely face Class 5 felony charges. The statutory punishment for this class of felony includes one to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in criminal fines.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about drug crimes under Virginia law, we can help. Reach out to the skilled Leesburg drug crime lawyers at Simms Showers LLP for assistance with your case.

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