Virginia Code § 18.2-250 Controlled Substances: Unlawful Possession
Some drugs are technically legal and are intended to be used for medical purposes and treatments, whereas other drugs are in no way legal and more so manufactured illicitly with more recreational purposes in mind. Regardless of what the background with the drug is, Virginia is known as one of the stricter states regarding drugs, and drug offenses are not taken lightly in the courts. If a law enforcement officer found these drugs and reasoned them to be associated with you, then you may have been charged with unlawfully possessing controlled substances.
There are different levels of severity for controlled substances in the eyes of the Commonwealth, and they are categorized based on their potential for abuse and dependency. As the perceived risk increases for each classification, so do the penalties that come with it.
Controlled Substances, and their Penalties for Possession
- Schedule I: Some of the drugs under this umbrella are heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Possession of one of these scheduled drugs is a Class 5 felony – punishment can be imprisonment from one to ten years, or jail time up to 12 months, and/or a fine up to $2,500.
- Schedule II: This includes Oxycodone, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, and ADHD medication; this is also a Class 5 felony.
- Schedule III: Includes ketamine, anabolic steroids. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor – jail time up to 12 months, and/or a fine up to $2,500.
- Schedule IV: Includes Ambien, Xanax, Valium. Getting convicted with these drugs will result in a Class 2 misdemeanor – jail time up to six months, and/or a fine up to $1,000.
- Schedule V: Includes cough medicine with codeine. Class 3 misdemeanor – fine up to $500.
- Schedule VI: This category can include other substances classified as drugs that are not mentioned, but still has some potential for abuse. Class 4 misdemeanor – fine up to $250.
Other penalties can include, but are not limited to:
- a permanent criminal record that can’t be cleared
- license suspensions
- community service
- required rehabilitation
Proving Possession of Controlled Substances in Fairfax County Court
Many of the same elements to prove possession of marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia also apply to unlawful possession of controlled substances. As specified in the code, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you 1) knowingly or intentionally 2) were in possession 3) of a controlled substance 4) without a valid prescription.
To break down these points:
- “Knowingly or intentionally” – Were you aware of the presence of the drugs and what it was? How you were acting (your demeanor, unusual behavior, etc.) and any statements you may have made to the officer will be used by the court to achieve a conviction.
- “Possession” – This essentially means being in control and having power over the drugs. There are two general ways in which possession is typically referred to in court: “actual possession” and “constructive possession”. Actual possession is when the drug is on or inside the body in some way. So it is in some way directly connected to the body itself, and thus in possession.
If you are charged with constructive possession, then this means that although the drug may not have been directly on you, it was in some place where you still had control over it. This means it could be somewhere in the car that you are driving, or hidden somewhere only you know of; regardless, it could be argued that you have the ability to access it just the same.
Also, even if you were not necessarily the owner of the drug, you can still be convicted for being in possession of it.
- “Controlled Substance” – A controlled substance is any substance listed/categorized under the controlled substance “Schedules” of the Virginia Drug Control Act. You might also know them as being popularly referred to as drugs. (For the full list of drugs and related illicit actions related to those drugs that can have legal repercussions in Virginia, refer to the Virginia Drug Control Act.)
- “Valid prescription” – Some of the scheduled drugs are obtained from a licensed medical doctor/official and require a medical prescription. Simply put, if you are found in possession of those substances that that you were not prescribed, it can result in a charge.
Let Unlawful Possession Attorney Joseph Yoon Fight for Your Case
Note that if you are the owner of the premise or vehicle in which the controlled substance was found and were charged, that fact alone is not enough to have you convicted, nor was the mere proximity of the drug alone to you enough either. If you refused to consent to a search at the time of your charge, that also can not be used against you. These are just some instances of challenges, but your possible options will ultimately be based on your own case.
Probation is a possibility, in what is known as the “251 Program” under Va. Code § 18.2-251, if there are no previous convictions of possession-related matters on your record, and if you end up pleading guilty to the charge. After completion of the program, the charges will be dismissed, but court first imposes some strict conditions that must be met before that enters the picture.
These conditions include (finding and) maintaining employment, 24 – 100 hours of community service, attending treatment and/or education programs, and periodic drug testing to confirm their sobriety during the period of the program.
Despite having the charges dismissed if you successfully complete the program, your record will still indicate your participation in the program due to a drug charge, which can potentially all still be avoided. Each case, including your own, has their own unique set of circumstances and possible pieces of evidence. When consulting with experienced and passionate Unlawful Possession Attorney Joseph Yoon of Yoon Law Firm, PLLC, you will be consulted on if there is room on which to challenge the charge in court to present your case, and from there he will guide you towards the next best step in improving your situation.