In the Commonwealth of Virginia, drug crimes are aggressively prosecuted in order to deter the distribution, sale, and possession of illegal drugs. While possession of any illegal drug, including marijuana in some cases, is treated as a serious offense, possessing even a small amount of an illegal controlled substance may result in a more severe charge of possession with intent to distribute. You may face a lengthy prison sentence and a large fine if convicted, so you will need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to help building a strong defense to the charge. Virginia drug distribution defense attorney John C. Clark, Esq., of Walker Jones, PC, has handled many cases involving drug crimes in Fauquier County and throughout Virginia.
Manufacture, Distribution, and Sale of a Controlled Substance in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248, it is unlawful for a person to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance. The manufacture of a controlled substance includes production, processing, packaging, and repackaging. Distribution means transferring a controlled substance without a lawful prescription or sharing a drug with a friend or family member. Selling a controlled substance involves transferring it in exchange for money or for something else of value, but can also include offering to sell or gifting the illegal drug. The penalties depend on several factors, including the specific type of substance.
Classification of Illegal Drugs in Virginia
There are five categories of illegal drugs in Virginia, ranked from the most serious to the least serious in terms of penalties. The most dangerous classification is Schedule I, based on the drugs’ high potential for abuse and lack of a medical benefit. These include:
- Angel Dust
The next most serious are Schedule II drugs. These controlled substances also have a high risk of abuse:
For a first offense conviction, the penalty for distributing or possessing with intent to distribute a Schedule I or Schedule II drug is between 5 and 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. For a second offense, there is a minimum sentence of three years in jail with a possibility of five years to life in prison plus a fine of up to $500,000. The manufacture, distribution, or sale of methamphetamine (crystal meth) has its own set of stiff penalties depending on the amount.
Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, some barbiturates, and depressants. Possession of these controlled substances with intent to distribute is a felony punished by one to ten years in prison, up to 12 months in jail, or a fine of up to $2,500. Schedule IV drugs include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and other tranquilizers. This offense is also a felony that can result in a prison sentence of one to five years in prison, up to 12 months in jail, or fine not to exceed $2,500. The least serious classification, Schedule V, includes over-the-counter medications or drugs with lower amounts of codeine, like cough medicines. Illegal possession with intent to distribute these medications is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Dealers who manufacture, sell, give, or distribute large volumes of controlled substances, or who intend to do so, can face a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison to life and a fine of up to $1,000,000. Transporting a controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute at least one ounce of cocaine, or a Schedule I or Schedule II drug, or five or more pounds of marijuana, into Virginia, is a separate felony punishable by 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. There is also a minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years for a first conviction and 10 years for repeat offenders.
Defending Drug Distribution Charges in Virginia
There may be several effective defense strategies for fighting a drug distribution charge in Virginia. The most common issues that arise in these types of cases involve unreasonable stops, searches, and seizures by law enforcement. In those situations, a person accused of distributing illegal drugs may argue a deprivation of his or her constitutional rights. If the police officer lacked probable cause or a search warrant before making the arrest, the charges against the defendant may be dropped. Other aggressive defense strategies involve refuting the elements of the crime, such as when the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to prove possession, the type of substance, or the defendant’s intent to distribute.
Choose Walker Jones, PC
Drug distribution crimes in Virginia carry lengthy prison sentences and large fines. Not only is your freedom at stake, a conviction will go on your record. This will make it difficult to pass a background check and thereby impact your employment opportunities. Having an experienced attorney by your side is critical. Contact Virginia criminal defense lawyer John C. Clark, Esq. today to discuss your case.