Virginia Possession with Intent to Distribute Charges Defense Attorney
A conviction for misdemeanor or felony drug possession or possession with intent to distribute (PWID) in Fairfax County or Northern Virginia can have serious consequences. An experienced Fairfax and Northern Virginia criminal defense attorney will tell you that any drug conviction, whether it involves marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamines, heroin, PCP, anabolic steroids, prescription drugs, or another controlled substance, can have a significant undesirable impact upon your education, career, and possibly your freedom.
This page discusses specific penalties for drug possession and possession with intent to distribute, what the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction, and sentencing alternatives. If you are looking for more general information on drug possession, please view our main page on Drug Offenses which provides a broad overview of drug crimes.
To discuss your case with Kyle G. Manikas, a former prosecutor and experienced Fairfax County and Northern Virginia criminal and drug defense lawyer that has handled hundreds of drug cases, including possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, manufacturing, and transportation cases, or to schedule a free consultation, contact our law office at 703-873-7473 or 888-503-8075, or contact us by e-mail.
How Serious is Drug Possession In Fairfax or Northern Virginia and What is the Penalty/Punishment for Drug Possession?
People often ask "Can I go to jail if I am convicted of drug possession" or "What will happen to my driver's license if I am convicted of drug possession?" The consequences you face for drug possession depend in large part on the type of drug you are accused of possessing. The Drug Control Act classifies drugs into five schedules. Where the drug falls in that schedule determines the seriousness of the offense.
• Possession of Marijuana (Va. Code 18.2-250.1) - Possession of small amount of marijuana in Virginia is a misdemeanor. A first offense is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine, and a mandatory 6 month loss of driving privileges. If it is a second offense, the maximum jail time increases to one year. However, the offense must be properly charged as a second offense to elevate the penalty to 12 months.
• Possession of Cocaine, Crack, Heroin, PCP, Methamphetamine ("Meth"), Cathinone ("Khat"), Ecstasy (MDA or MDMA), LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), certain prescription drugs (methadone, Ritalin, morphine, etc.) (Va. Code 18.2-250) - These drugs are all controlled substances that have been classified as Schedule I or II drugs under the Drug Control Act. Possession of a Schedule I or II drug is a Class 5 felony offense therefore it is much more serious than possession of marijuana. Class 5 felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $2,500 fine and a mandatory 6 month license suspension.
• Possession of Anabolic Steroids and certain prescription drugs (Xanax, Valium, Percocet/Oxycodone, Codein, Codeine, etc.) (Va. Code 18.2-250) - Possession of anabolic steroids and certain prescription drugs is a misdemeanor. Depending on whether the specific drug is a Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V drug, the penalty varies from a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine for a Schedule III drug to just a maximum fine of $250 (no jail) for a Schedule V drug. However, there is also a 6 month mandatory loss of license.
• Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Va. Code 18.2-265.3 & 54.1-3466) - Simple possession of drug paraphernalia is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 dollars. However, unlike other drug convictions, there is no 6 month license suspension associated with the conviction.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove for the Judge or Jury to Find Me Guilty of Drug Possession?
In Fairfax County and Northern Virginia, the prosecution must prove that the accused "knowingly and intentionally" possessed the illegal drug. "Knowingly" means that it must be proven that the accused (1) knew the character of the substance (i.e., that it was marijuana, cocaine, etc.) and (2) knew of the existence of the drug in the location where it was found. "Intentionally" means that the prosecution must prove that the accused asserted "dominion" (control) over the substance. Therefore, in order to obtain a conviction for drug possession, the prosecutor must prove that the accused knew what the substance was and where it was, and that he or she exercised control over the substance.
These elements are much easier for the prosecutor to prove when the accused is found in actual physical possession of the substance - such as when the drug is found in a pocket or pocket book. However, when the drugs are not found on the defendant's person (such as when the drugs are found in a car or bedroom) it is much harder for the prosecution to prove the case.
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of court cases that have addressed various circumstances which either do or do not constitute knowing and intentional possession. Those cases must be reviewed, analyzed, and then analogized to your case so that a proper argument and defense can be crafted. Accordingly, it is extremely important that you consult an experienced attorney so that he can properly prepare your case.
Narcotics cases often involve constitutional search and seizure issues, scientific and technical issues pertaining to the lab analysis, evidentiary issues regarding the chain of custody of the drugs, and witness credibility issues given that these cases often involve confidential informants. These potential issues, if pursued, can work in your favor. However, you must be absolutely certain that your attorney understands how narcotics investigations are developed and proceed, and the mechanics of a narcotics prosecution. Only a former prosecutor will have that inside working knowledge and understanding.
At Manikas Law LLC, Kyle G. Manikas, a former prosecutor, will evaluate your case and offer you advice and counsel on your drug possession charge. To schedule a no obligation, free consultation or to discuss your case by phone, contact our law office at 703-873-7473 or 888-503-8075, or contact us by e-mail.
What Sentencing Alternatives are There and What is a Section 251 Disposition?
Many people ask whether Virginia has a sentencing alternative similar to a SIS (suspended imposition of sentence) or a PBJ (probation before judgment) where the accused is placed on probation and has the opportunity to have the charge dismissed at a later date. Virginia does have such a program for drug possession charges - both felony and misdemeanor. Virginia Code section 18.2-251 allows the defendant to be placed on probation. If the accused successfully completes probation, community service hours, a drug education or treatment program, and remains of good behavior, the drug possession charge can be dismissed. However, in felony cases the probation period is usually two years and there will be a six month license suspension. Moreover, even if the charge is dismissed, it will remain on the criminal record of the accused, but will be marked as "dismissed." Such a dismissal cannot be expunged from a criminal record. Also, this type of disposition is not available for possession with intent to distribute or distribution charges.
What is Possession With Intent to Distribute (PWID)?
If you have been charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) Marijuana, Cocaine, Crack, Heroin, PCP, Methamphetamine ("Meth"), Cathinone ("Khat"), Ecstasy (MDA or MDMA), LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), or another controlled substance under section 18.2-248, 18.2-248.1, 18.2-248.03, or another section of the Virginia Code, the situation is much more serious than a simple drug possession charge. The severity of the penalty associated with a PWID conviction depends partly on the drug that was possessed. For marijuana the penalty can be up to 30 years in prison. For other drugs, the maximum penalty ranges from 40 years to life. Moreover, unless your defense attorney can convince the prosecutor or judge to reduce the charge to simple possession, a deferred (or 251) disposition is not available to those convicted of PWID. The penalties associated with a PWID conviction can be extremely harsh.
Proving Possession with Intent to Distribute - proof of PWID can be made by circumstantial evidence. The most common circumstantial evidence used to prove intent to distribute is quantity (possessing an amount too large to be consistent with personal use only) and packaging (possessing the drug in units adapted to retail sale). These factors, along with other evidence indicative of distribution (scales, baggies, large amounts of cash, firearms, presence in an "open drug market," etc.) will be used by the prosecutor to prove a PWID case.
PWID cases can be complex and the biggest mistake people charged with PWID make is waiting until the last minute to retain a lawyer. Waiting until just days before your court date will put your lawyer at a substantial disadvantage in defending your case. At Manikas Law LLC we offer a no obligation, free consultation. Therefore, there is no cost associated with exploring your options.
Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Possession
If you have any of the following questions regarding your drug possession case, please link to the Criminal Defense Questions page for answers.
• What should I do if I get a call that a relative or friend has been arrested?
• What are my rights if I have been arrested or accused of a crime in Virginia?
• How can I get the charge taken off of my record (expunged or an expungement) in Virginia?
• What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge in Virginia?
• What is a summons and why did I have to sign it?
• What should I do if I have been arrested?
• What is entrapment?
• How can a person get out of jail after an arrest?
• How do I know what criminal defense lawyer to hire?
• Do I have the right to an attorney?
• Do I need an attorney?
• Did the officer need a warrant to arrest me?
• Was my arrest illegal?
• Did the officer have the right to search without a warrant?
• Is my confession admissible?
Contact An Experienced Fairfax and Northern Virginia Drug Possession Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested for a crime involving drugs or narcotics in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, contact a former prosecutor and experienced Fairfax and Northern Virginia criminal defense lawyer at Manikas Law LLC.
Kyle G. Manikas has handled hundreds of drug-related charges, including misdemeanor and felony charges relating to the possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, manufacturing, and transportation of Marijuana, Cocaine, Crack, PCP, LSD, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Cathinone ("Khat"), Ecstasy (MDA or MDMA), Psilocybin, Xanax, Valium, Percocet/Oxycodone, Codein, Codeine, and other illegal drugs and controlled substances.
For a free consultation contact our law office at 703-873-7473 or 888-503-8075, or contact us by e-mail.