So the police have charged you with possession of marijuana. What does that mean in the state of Virginia? Marijuana possession is prohibited by Virginia Code Section 18.2-250.1. A first offense is categorized as an unclassified misdemeanor, and punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A second offense is categorized as a class 1 misdemeanor, an offense that carries a potential maximum punishment of 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine. A conviction for marijuana possession also carries with it a six month suspension of your driver's license.
When prosecuting drug possession cases, the state must prove that you either knowingly or intentionally possessed marijuana. Practically speaking, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt two different things. First, it must be demonstrated that you were aware you were in the possession of marijuana, and second, that you knew or should have known that the substance in your possession was actually marijuana. Possession may be actual or constructive. An example of actual possession would be finding a joint in your coat pocket, while constructive possession might be finding a bag of pot in the glove compartment of your car. In the first circumstance, the illegal drugs are on your person, while in the second scenario, they are not on your person, but are in an area that is under your control.
For obvious reasons, allegations of constructive possession are easier to defend against than actual possession. In fact, the code section prohibiting marijuana possession states that no presumption of knowing or intentional possession shall arise simply because the marijuana was found on the premises or in the vehicle that you owned or were occupying. Refer back to the marijuana in the glove compartment. By itself the location of the drugs is not sufficient to convict you. However, if the police present evidence that the vehicle was registered in your name, that you were the only one in the vehicle when the drugs were found, that you had other personal items in the glove compartment, and the vehicle smelled like marijuana, that additional evidence could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that constructively possessed the marijuana.
Even if the the state has enough evidence to secure a conviction for possession of marijuana, there is still a chance you may be able to escape from this situation without a conviction. If this is your first possession offense, the court has the option of deferring disposition of your case for 6 months. During that 6 months, you will be on community probation and will be required to remain drug and alcohol free. You will be subjected to random urine screens to test for the presence of drugs and alcohol. As part of the probation you will also be required to submit to a substance abuse screening and treatment program if necessary. Additionally, you will have to perform a set amount of community service, in most marijuana cases no more than 24 hours. The court may impose any other terms and conditions of probation that it sees fit for your individual situation. Finally, your driver's license will be suspended during your 6 month probationary period. However, we can request that the judge issue you a restricted license so that you can drive to and from work, school, doctor's appointments, court related appointments and child care services. While this may seem like a lot of work on your part, it is worth it in the long run. If at the end of the 6 months you have satisfied all the terms and conditions, the judge will dismiss the charge without entering a finding of guilt. However, if you fail to satisfy any conditions of the deferred disposition, the judge will find you guilty and sentence you accordingly.
If you have been charged with a marijuana, narcotic, or prescription drug offense, please contact our office at (804)217-9898 to discuss your charge and what options you may have. Attorney Charles Homiller regularly represents individuals across the Central Virginia region who have been charged with drug offenses, as well as most other criminal and traffic offenses.