Distribution, Selling or Giving Marijuana is a serious drug crime in Virginia. While some states may have leniency on Marijuana-related crimes, Virginia treats such crimes with strictness, including the possibility of life imprisonment.
Still, facing charges for marijuana-related crimes doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guilty. You need an expert lawyer to evaluate the case and challenge it in court, and you can always count on the Virginia Criminal Attorney for such drug crimes. Our services are available for people throughout Fairfax and the Northern Virginia cities. Read on for further insights on this crime and how you can get in touch with us.
Virginia code 54.1-3401 at a Glance
Virginia code 54.1-3401 makes it an offense to distribute a controlled substance. The code also defines distribution as the act of delivering drugs other than administering or dispensing them. The term ‘distribute’ covers larger aspects involving gifting, selling, or transferring a controlled drug. The law further explains that the act is illegal whether the accused seller gets financial gains or not. Thus, it is illegal to distribute, sell, or give Marijuana, which is one of the common controlled drugs in Virginia.
Marijuana, according to VA Code 18.2-247(D), includes even synthetic derivatives containing cannabinoids and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Elements of Crime for Distribution, Giving or Selling Marijuana
To be convicted of marijuana distribution, selling or giving in Virginia, two facts must be proven:
- That you possessed marijuana and intended to distribute, sell, or give
- That the weight of marijuana you distributed matched with the charges that you are facing
As such, the commonwealth’s prosecution must first prove that the substance you are alleged to distribute was marijuana. The conclusion is arrived at through various field and laboratory tests. Afterward, it must be established that you possessed the drug with a view of distributing, selling, or giving it to another person. The possible indicators that you had the aim of commercial transaction of Marijuana include the presence of the drug in individually wrapped or packaged bags, having much cash with you, and the presence of drug selling paraphernalia such as scales, razors, packaging bags. Hence, this offense doesn’t entail proof that the drug was meant for personal use.
Moreover, to alleviate doubt, the Commonwealth of Virginia often employ the services of a drug & narcotics expert to further explain the exact implications or meanings of the various indicators of the offense.
An exception is only given in Virginia Code 18.2-251.1 that permits the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Under this section, you shall not be prosecuted under Virginia code 18.2-248 for allegedly distributing or administering marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol for medical use. However, if such cases should occur in line with your medical expertise for the treatment of diseases like glaucoma or cancer.
What Are the Common Penalties for Distribution, Selling or Giving Marijuana in Virginia?
Virginia Code 18.2-248 describes in details the penalties associated with distribution, selling or giving of marijuana. The strictness of the consequences increases with the amount of marijuana distributed, sold or gifted. It also depends on your underlying criminal history. As such, if the amount is below half (0.5) ounce, you will be guilty of a class one misdemeanor whose penalties include not more than (12) months in jail and a fine of two thousand five hundred (2,500) dollars as an addition or alternative to the jail term.
Similarly, you face a class five felony if the amount of marijuana exceeds half (0.5) ounce but less than five (5) ounce, and the penalties will range from one to ten years in prison. However, depending on the judge’s discretion, the offense can be viewed as a class one misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, its penalties will be reduced to twelve months jail term or a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred (2,500) dollars. However, if the marijuana involved exceeds five pounds, you risk up to thirty (30) years imprisonment.
Moreover, Virginia Code 18.2-248.1 (d) demands that you face enhanced punishments if you are convicted of felony marijuana distribution for the third time. As such, the penalties will include a five (5) years or life imprisonment in which the five years is mandatory minimum, and should be served consecutively with any other applicable punishment. Furthermore, a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand (500,000) dollars would be imposed on you.
Other marijuana distributions, selling and giving charges and penalties include:
- Virginia code 18.2-474.1; distributing marijuana to a prisoner. The section demands that you are charged with a class five felony if you distribute marijuana to a prisoner who is detained in any correctional facility within the state of Virginia. A conviction of this offense subjects you to a prison term not exceeding five years and a fine not more than two thousand five hundred (2,500) dollars;
- The Virginia code 18.2-255 (A); distribution of marijuana to a minor/child. The law applies if you are above eighteen (18) years but distributed marijuana to a child. This offense is punishable by between ten and fifty years imprisonment. Nonetheless, you will be required to pay not less than a hundred thousand dollars as fine. Furthermore, there is a mandatory minimum of two years imprisonment if the amount of marijuana you distributed is below one ounce. Similarly, a minimum of five years of mandatory prison term applies where the amount of marijuana in question is above one ounce;
- Distribution of marijuana near a school or a public facility; Virginia code 18.2-255.2. It is illegal in Virginia to operate any business related to controlled drugs near a school. A conviction of this offense attracts between one and five years in jail and not more than 100,000 dollars as fine;
- The Conspiracy to engage in the distribution of marijuana. Under Virginia Code 18.2-256, it is unlawful to conspire distribution of any controlled drug. The offense is punishable by jail terms and possible fines. The minimum penalties, however, does not go below the minimum possible punishment linked to the crime conspired. Similarly, the maximum penalties of the conspiracy charge are lower than the maximum penalties for the plotted crime.
If during the process of distributing, selling, or giving marijuana, a gun, piston, or any other ammunition is involved, you are charged with a class six felony. Such a case is reinforced if you were distributing more than a pound of marijuana. The offense is a bit severe and carries a mandatory minimum term of five years in addition to the actual penalty.
Similarly, if you can prove to the court that you just accommodated an individual that was distributing marijuana and that you did not intend to gain advantage or make your counterpart dependent on the drug, you will be guilty of a class one misdemeanor. The penalties will be twelve (12) months jail term or a fine of two thousand five hundred (2,500) dollars. However, if you distribute, marijuana to an inmate of any correctional facility without an intent to gain any financial advantage, you would be charged with a class 4 felony.
Although gifting of marijuana involves the distribution of the drug with no intention to gain any profit, the offense is charged together with distribution offense. As such, if you are accused of giving marijuana to your friend, you would be charged with a class one misdemeanor. However, if your friend is an inmate, you would face class 4 felony charges. Also, harsher penalties including 10-50 years in prison and a fine not less than 100,000 dollars applied if you are convicted of gifting marijuana to a minor.
Besides the possible jail terms and hefty fines, convictions related to marijuana in your records can severely affect various aspects of your life. If you are a military officer, for instance, your chances of being promoted may be curtailed. It may also prove difficult for you to obtain a security clearance. Similarly, drug convictions can hamper you from getting employment as a teacher, lawyer, nurse, doctor, or even security personnel. Your driving privilege could also be jeopardized as your license might be suspended for not less than six months.
Can Marijuana Distribution Charges Be Expunged from My Criminal Records?
The world has significantly evolved in terms of technology. This means that any underlying criminal record behind your name can easily be noticed and can affect your future endeavors. The state of Virginia has allowed expungement of some misdemeanor drug-related charges from a person’s criminal records. However, for you to qualify, you should not have been convicted; instead, the charges should still be allegations. Also, it would be best if you did not have any other underlying criminal history. Nonetheless, expungement is only available if you were not found guilty after the commonwealth’s prosecutor (for certain reasons) dropped the case, the charge was subjected to amendments, the court dismissed the charges.
Common Legal Defenses for Marijuana Distribution, Selling, or Gifting
Whenever you are accused of distribution, selling, or giving Marijuana, it is essential to hire an attorney. The lawyer will scrutinize the facts related to the case to build robust defense strategies. A proper representation could have the charges dismissed entirely or the penalties associated with the charges substantially reduced. Among the defense employed include:
- Refuting the elements of the crime. Among the primary indicators that you intended to distribute marijuana is the presence of the drug in an amount more substantial than what is meant for personal use. Also, the way the drug is displayed or wrapped – such as in individual envelopes and a large amount of cash – can signal the commercial aspect of marijuana. Despite the presence of these indicators, you can still refute them. For example, you can claim that the amount of marijuana, though more significant, was for your use and that there was no intention of selling or distributing. You can also point out other sources that could generate a large amount of cash. By challenging the facts presented against your case, you can have the severity of your penalties reduced;
- Violation of your rights. While conducting searches related to drugs in Virginia, the officer in charge is expected to have probable doubt, warrant of search, and they must conduct the searches under your consent. Therefore, to search, either in your premises or vehicle, the police must prove that they had a reasonable doubt that you were distributing drugs. They must also present you a permit or warrant of search. Furthermore, they must seek consent from you. Where any of the conditions were not met, your attorney will strive at having the evidence or charges dismissed;
- The drug was not yours. In a situation where you are alleged to have offered accommodation to somebody, the severity of your charges could be reduced. For instance, rather than facing felony charges, you could be charged with a minor misdemeanor offense. However, your attorney will have to prove further that you were not in any commercial transaction and that the person you accommodated never intended to use the drug in a way that would make him or her depended on the drug;
- Wrong testing procedures. Generally, when you are caught distributing marijuana especially in synthetic form or a mixture, the police will first have to carry out some laboratory test. The process helps to ascertain the nature of the drug, the amount, and any other specifics. An experienced attorney will make a follow up on all the procedures that were followed, the analysis, and the results. Where specific steps were violated, the attorney can challenge the reliability of the evidence presented and possibly have the charges dismissed.
Charges Related to the Distributing, Giving, or Selling Marijuana
Allegations linked to marijuana are many. Some of these charges can be pressed instead of marijuana distribution or selling, or still, used as reduced charges. They include:
Virginia code 18.2-250.1; Possession of Marijuana
It is unlawful for you to own marijuana intentionally unless you are a medical practitioner in the line of your professional duty. If you are accused of possessing marijuana for the first time, you would be guilty of a misdemeanor and possibly face a jail term of thirty (30) days or a fine of not more than five hundred (500) dollars. The court may also impose both the jail term and the fines. Under the same section, a second conviction will be treated as a class one misdemeanor, the most severe class of misdemeanor crimes. The penalties include not more than twelve (12) months in jail and a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred (2,500) dollars. Both the jail term and the fine may also apply.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; Virginia Code 18.2-265.1
It is a crime for you to have any implement, tool, or equipment that is connected to drug distribution, use or sell. Such devices may include measuring balances, scales, envelopes and testing apparatus, and are generally referred to as drug paraphernalia. By merely possessing drug paraphernalia, an inference is made that you perhaps distribute marijuana. Furthermore, Virginia code 18.2-265.3 makes it illegal for you to commercially transact drug paraphernalia. Upon the violation of the section, you can be charged with a class one misdemeanor.
Cultivation or Manufacture of Marijuana; Virginia Code 18.2-248.1(C)
Manufacturing or cultivation of marijuana for other uses other than personal use is illegal under this section. If you are convicted of this offense, a jail term of between five and 30 years in prison will apply. You would also be subjected to a hefty fine of ten thousand (10,000) dollars. Any subsequent felony of manufacturing marijuana is punishable by five (5) years to life imprisonment. However, the five years are mandatory minimum prison term which has to be served consecutively with the other prison terms. Also, a fine of five hundred thousand (500,000) dollars would be applied. Moreover, if you are convicted of manufacturing substance or a mixture that contains marijuana weighing more than 100 kilograms, you will be punished by a twenty (20) years to life imprisonment.
Furthermore, Virginia Code 18.2-248(H1) makes it an offense for one to organize or continue a criminal enterprise. You would be guilty of this crime if you run a marijuana manufacturing enterprise. However, the charges suffice if the gross receipt in 12 months is between one hundred thousand (100,000) and two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) dollars. If you are convicted, you will face a mandatory minimum of twenty (20) years to life imprisonment. Also, a fine not more than one hundred thousand (100,000) dollars would be imposed on you.
Find Legal Representation Near Me
As you can see, distribution, selling, or giving Marijuana not only attracts severe punishments but also tied to other serious drug crimes. In fact, a prosecutor may press more than one charge against you. In such a case, you need a legal representative to help you to fight the charges. If you are in Fairfax or the Northern Virginia cities, we invite you to call our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer 760-691-1540. The attorney will evaluate your case and see the possible ways to fight the charges.