Marijuana Defense Attorney
Possession of Marijuana is an offense in Virginia that has the possibility of multiple penalties, depending upon one’s record. If a person is charged with simple possession as a “first offense”, the person is given a chance to complete a first offender program. If one has never been convicted of a drug possession charge, they can qualify for this program.
Generally, a first offender program requires a person to either enter a plea of guilty or no contest and stipulate that the facts are sufficient for a conviction. The imposition of the penalty (finding the person guilty) is deferred for a period of 12 months with certain requirements imposed upon the person during the period of deferment. The accused will be required to perform 24 hours of community service through the local community corrections department, remain drug free, submit to random drug screening, complete any substance abuse recommended by community corrections and be of uniform good behavior for the entire 12 months. Upon a successful completion of these requirements, the charge is dismissed but will remain on the person’s record only for the purposes of preventing them from performing the first offender program again. In the event that one is unsuccessful in completing these requirements, the person can be found guilty of simple possession of marijuana.
If a person is charged with simple possession of marijuana and is not “first offender” eligible, the court has a different sentencing option available. A person convicted of a first offense possession of marijuana can be sentenced up to 30 days in jail and receive a fine of up to $500.00 or both. A first offense is considered an un-classed misdemeanor.
If a person is charged and convicted of possession of marijuana, second or subsequent offense, it is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalty range for a class 1 misdemeanor is up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2500.00 or both.
The only statutory defense (non-constitutionally based) to the possession of marijuana is if a person obtains the marijuana directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practicioner (a doctor) while acting in the course of their professional practice. There are other costitutional defenses but each and every one of those is specific to very specific facts and circumstances that an individual may find themselves in.