''Simple'' Possession of a Controlled Substance
There is nothing “simple” about simple possession charges in Virginia. Simple possession means to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance, not pursuant to a prescription from a doctor. If you have been charged with simple possession, this generally means that you were found with a controlled substance on your person or near you, but that there was nothing to indicate any purpose other than for personal use. The prosecutor would need to prove that you had physical possession of the substance, or if not physical possession, then that the individual exercised “dominion and control” over the substance and knew the character of that substance (meaning they had to know that it was a controlled substance).What are the Penalties?
As of July 1, 2020, Simple Possession of Marijuana is a $25 fine and a civil offense, no record is supposed to be kept of the conviction for simple possession of marijuana. If you were charged prior to July 1, 2020, different courts and prosecutors are handling these matters in their own ways.
Simple Possession of Schedule I or II Controlled Substance is a class 5 felony which carries a potential prison sentence of 1–10 years or up to 1 year in jail with a fine of up to $2,500. Schedules I and II include some of the most dangerous substances such as Heroin, Fentanyl, and Amphetamines. A felony conviction carries a significant number of additional consequences, such as losing your civil rights (right to vote, purchase or possess firearms, etc.), it may prevent you from obtaining certain government assistance or obtaining a business license, it may affect employment opportunities, and much more. Additionally, as it is a conviction for a criminal offense, it will remain on your criminal record permanently.
Simple Possession of a Schedule III Controlled Substance or marijuana-derived substances (certain THC Oils and similar substances) is a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a potential jail sentence of 0–12 months and up to a $2,500 fine. This misdemeanor conviction will also become a permanent part of your criminal record.
Simple Possession of a Schedule IV Controlled Substance is a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a potential jail sentence of 0–6 months, and up to a $1,000 fine. This misdemeanor conviction will also become a permanent part of your criminal record.
Simple possession of a Schedule V Controlled Substance is a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of $500. Even though there is no potential jail sentence, this misdemeanor conviction will become a permanent part of your criminal record.
Simple possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance is a class 4 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of $250.00. Even though there is no potential for a jail sentence, this misdemeanor conviction will become a permanent part of your criminal record.Immigration Consequences
A conviction for any controlled substance charge can have severe immigration consequences including potential deportation, exclusion from admission, loss of status, and denial of naturalization. This is true even if you receive a deferred finding for a first offense.Deferred Finding for First Offenses
For any Simple Possession charge, if it is your first offense, you may be able to receive something called a deferred finding.
This is when the Court determines there is enough evidence to find you guilty but doesn’t actually convict you. Instead, it continues the case for some period of time, usually 6 months to 1 year. The Court will place you on probation which will include: a substance abuse evaluation, treatment if it is recommended, paying court costs and any treatment costs, and completing community service hours. While you are on probation, you must not commit any new crimes. You will also be required to not commit any other crimes during the period you are on probation. If you do everything you are supposed to do, then at the end of the probationary period, the charge will be dismissed.
There are several problems with these types of “first offender” or “deferred disposition” programs. The most important problem is the fact you were arrested will always stay on your record. While the record will show the charge was dismissed, it will still show you were charged. This is because arrest records for charges dismissed by a “first offender” program cannot be expunged in Virginia. So if an employer or someone else runs a background check on you, it will still be there. In addition, for immigration (and some other federal purposes) this is still treated as a CONVICTION.
The first and foremost is that it stays on your criminal record permanently as a dismissed charge. In other words, even though the case was dismissed, if an employer runs a background check they will be able to see it. Second, as far as certain federal regulations, including immigration laws, are concerned, this is still a CONVICTION for a drug offense.Hire an Attorney
Drug cases are complicated for the prosecution to prove, but only if the proper defenses are used. “Mitigation” (that is, highlighting the best things about you, what you have done to change, etc.) can also be an especially important part of the case if done correctly. You need experienced drug possession lawyers on your team to help get you the best outcome possible in your case.
We have experience successfully defending all levels of possession charges in Northern Virginia going back to 2003. If you or a loved one have been charged with drug possession, contact us today.