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What is the Virginia Difference Between Drug Distribution & Trafficking Crimes?


The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws against and penalties for numerous drug crimes, including distribution and trafficking. Although these offenses are both felonies, they are defined and punished separately under Virginia law.

Drug Distribution Crimes

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-248 makes it unlawful to distribute, manufacture, sell, or gift illegal drugs. This section also prohibits any person from possessing illegal drugs in Virginia with the intent to distribute, manufacture, sell, or gift.

Any person who violates Section 18.2-248 is subject to criminal penalties under Virginia law. The corresponding punishment changes based on the type and quantity of illegal drugs in question. Distribution crimes involving Schedule I/II controlled substances — such as heroin or cocaine — have the most severe penalties.

For example, any person who distributes or attempts to distribute a Schedule I/II controlled substance can face the following penalty structure:

  • First Conviction — Imprisonment for five to 40 years and criminal fines up to $500,000;
  • Second Conviction — Imprisonment for five years to life and criminal fines up to $500,000; or
  • Third or Subsequent Conviction — Imprisonment for 10 years to life and criminal fines up to $500,000.

In addition to the standard punishment scheme outlined above, Section 18.2-248 also establishes even harsher penalties for distribution crimes involving large amounts of illegal drugs. In those situations, the offender might have a longer prison sentence and even larger criminal fines.

Drug Trafficking Crimes

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-248.01 makes it illegal to transport illegal drugs into the Commonwealth. Often referred to as drug trafficking, there are two elements to this offense. First, the alleged offender must demonstrate an intent to distribute or sell the illegal drugs in question.

Second, this offense only involves larger amounts of certain illegal drugs. It only qualifies as drug trafficking if a person transports or attempts to transport:

  • One ounce or more of cocaine or coca leaves or similar compounds, derivatives or preparations;
  • One ounce or more of any Schedule I/II controlled substance; or
  • Five pounds or more of marijuana.

Any person who violates Section 18.2-248.01 is subject to criminal penalties upon conviction. The standard sentence for this offense includes imprisonment for five to 40 years and criminal fines up to $1 million.

Additionally, any person who commits a drug trafficking crime in Virginia is also subject to following mandatory minimum levels of punishment:

  • First Conviction — Includes a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison; or
  • Second or Subsequent Conviction — Includes a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about Virginia charges for drug distribution or trafficking, it can be highly useful to speak with a dependable criminal defense lawyer. The Leesburg drug crimes lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have represented clients in many criminal defense cases, including drug distribution and trafficking. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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