Virginia Marijuana Defense Attorney
A person charged with simple possession is eligible for the first offender program if he has not previously been convicted of any offense under any statue of the United States or state relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drugs or has not previously had a proceeding against him for violation of such an offense dismissed pursuant the first offender statute (18.2-251). .
Virginia’s First Offender Program
Pursuant to 18.2-251, a person can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to possession of marijuana. A court may then, if the facts found by the court would justify a finding of guilty, without entering a judgement of guilt and, with the consent of the accused, defer further proceedings and place him on probation. The duration of this probationary period is within the discretion of the court. Certain conditions are mandated such as a substance abuse assessment and compliance with all recommendations manifesting from the assessment. Additional mandatory conditions include successful completion of a treatment or education program, remaining drug and alcohol free, and submitting to testing for traces of drugs or alcohol metabolites. Community service is also mandatory; 100 hours must be completed in relation to a felony, and 24 hours for misdemeanors. However, in relation to a misdemeanor, if the court does not suspend the accused’s license as a term or condition of probation, the accused must complete 50 hours of community service instead of 24 hours. These mandatory conditions are typically completed through a local community-based probation services agency.
Upon successful completion of the first offender program, the charge will be dismissed by the court and the accused will be discharged from further court-ordered impositions and without adjudication of guilty. The charge remains a conviction for the limited purpose of barring eligibility for the first offender program in subsequent proceedings. Upon violation of a term or condition, the court may enter an adjudication of guilt and proceed as otherwise provided by the laws governing convictions for possession of marijuana.
If Ineligible for Virginia’s First Offender Program
A person charged with possession of marijuana as a first offense but who is not eligible for the first offender program faces potential penalties of up to 30 days imprisonment and a fine up to $500.00; either or both can be imposed by the court. A conviction for a first offense is categorized as an un-classed misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction for possession of marijuana is categorized as a class 1 misdemeanor. Potential penalties for conviction of a class 1 misdemeanor includes up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine up to $2500.00; either or both can be imposed by the court.
Defenses To Marijuana Charges in Virginia
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 practitioner (a doctor) while acting in the course of his professional practice or except as otherwise authorized by the Drug Control Act. There are other constitutional defenses but each and every one of those is specific to very specific facts and circumstances that an individual may find themselves in.
Moreover, with regard to possession of marijuana in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil, it is an affirmative defense that the oil was possessed pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner in the course of his professional practice for treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of the individual’s diagnosed condition or disease or, if the individual is the parent or legal guardian of a minor or an incapacitated adult, the minor or incapacitated adult’s condition or disease.