Is Drug Distribution Or The Sale Of Drugs In Virginia Charged As A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?
Drug distribution and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute are felony charges in the state of Virginia under code section 18.2-248.
The first offense of either distribution or possession with intent to distribute carries a penalty of 5 to 40 years in prison. The second offense carries the penalty of five years to life in prison with a mandatory three years served. The third offense will also carry the penalty of five years to life in prison, but the mandatory sentence is no less than ten years if convicted.
How Does The Amount Or Type Of Drug Impact The Charge?
If you’re being charged with possession with intent to distribute, the factors that the commonwealth has to determine are…
- If the drug is a controlled substance,
- If you were in possession of that controlled substance, and
- If you were in possession of that controlled substance with the intent to distribute it.
They will typically get a narcotics and detective to testify as an expert witness to your intent to distribute based on the amount of drugs you had in your possession. One thing they will determine and give testimony about is whether or not the weight of the amount of drugs you had is inconsistent with personal use.
The type of drug in conjunction with the amount of the drug, based on weight, is the first factor in determining if you had the intent to distribute.
Other factors considered when determining your intent to distribute are whether or not you…
- Had a large sum of money on you,
- Had baggies on you or in your car, and
- Had scales or other indicia of drug distribution present.
What Are The Penalties If I Have Been Caught With The Drugs With An Intent To Distribute? What Are The Kinds Of Convictions I Face In Virginia?
The penalties if you have been caught with drugs with an intent to distribute are…
- First offense: Five to forty years in prison.
- Second offense: Five years to life in prison with a mandatory three years served.
- Third offense: Five years to life in prison with a mandatory ten years served.
On the first offense, there are a variety of things that go into figuring out how long the sentence will be. There are sentencing guidelines in Virginia that give a range of time that someone is supposed to serve in jail or the penitentiary. It could be based on…
- Their prior record,
- Facts about the charge,
- The kind of outline,
- What kind of time that person is looking for, or
- What kind of time that person is subject to if convicted.
If I Was Arrested And Charged With Drug Distribution In Richmond, Virginia As A First Time Offense, Am I Going To Jail Or Am I Going To Prison?
If you’re arrested and charged with drug distribution as a first offense in Richmond, Virginia, the penalty will depend on your prior record. In Virginia, there are sentencing guidelines that the judge adheres to, which will determine the penalty for your charges.
The sentencing guidelines take into account your prior criminal record and the facts about your current charge. This report will take these two factors and give a range of time that you’re supposed to serve, either in jail or in prison.
A person with a very minimal record on a first offense drug distribution is probably going to look at serving somewhere in the range of seven to ten months at the bottom to a year and a half at the top. Any sentence that is over a year is going to be prison time – time in the department of corrections. Any sentence under 12 months could potentially be served in a jail.
If I’ve Been Charged With Drug Distribution In Virginia, If I’m Convicted, Is There A Way I Could Clear My Name Or Clear My Records?
No, once you have been convicted of drug distribution or any crime in Virginia, there is no process by which you are able to expunge or clean your record. Any conviction will remain on your record permanently. The only charges that are able to be expunged are…
- Charges for which you were found not guilty,
- Charges that were dismissed, or
- Charges were nolle passed.
Can I Get Into A Drug Court For Drug Distribution Charge In Virginia?
No, you can’t get into a drug court for drug distribution in Virginia. Drug courts are typically going to be focused on people who have been charged with drug use because they have a drug addiction.
It is obviously possible for someone who uses drugs to also sell drugs to fund their habit, but more often than not, someone with a drug distribution charge will also have charges for crimes of violence. That will keep them out of a lot of local drug courts.
What Are The Defenses To Drug Distribution Charges In Virginia?
The defenses to drug distribution charges in Virginia might be…
- Intent, or
- Constitutional violations.
When it comes to possession, there may be a way to raise reasonable doubt about who was actually in possession of the drugs. For instance, if the drugs were found in a car console and there were more than one person present in the car, who do they know who was actually in possession of the drugs?
Prosecutors must establish that the person had the intent to distribute the drugs, so intent becomes a very good defense.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if law enforcement violated someone’s constitutional rights in the process of their arrest, this could be a defense. If the officer failed to Mirandize them before speaking to them or searching them, their home, or their vehicle, that could be a defense against the charges.
There are a wide range of defenses to drug charges that an experienced lawyer would be able to raise based on their review of the facts of the case.
If I’m Going To Plead Guilty To My Drug Distribution Charge, Do I Still Need To Hire A Lawyer In Virginia?
Yes, any time that you walk into a courtroom, it’s important that you have a peer who is familiar with the process. When it comes to drug distribution charges, even if you intend to plead guilty, a lawyer can greatly impact your sentence.
You want to have a lawyer who can help get you the least amount of jail time or potentially prevent you from getting any jail time at all. The facts in the case will obviously play a role in what your sentence will be, but an experienced lawyer will know what options are available to you based on those facts.
For more information on Drug Related Offenses In The State Of Virginia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (804) 621-0854 today.