The drug laws in Virginia are notoriously tough, even for simple possession. For instance, you could land in jail for a whole year if you're caught with as little as a joint of marijuana for a second time. Sentences are even more severe for hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, although the state has followed the lead of other states by enacting a drug treatment court program that provides treatment instead of incarceration. But even though you can walk around with a bag of buds in California and a growing list of other states, carrying more than one-half ounce of marijuana in Virginia may be charged as intent to sell, which could land you in prison for up to a decade.
Whether you've already been charged and need to learn about your case or you're simply curious, this article provides the basics of Virginia's laws with regard to drug possession.
Virginia Drug Possession Laws at a Glance
Charges and penalties for the possession of drugs are all over the map, with sentences ranging from a fine to many years in prison. An attorney can best explain how the law applies to your particular case, but the chart below will help you get a handle on Virginia's drug possession laws.
|Virginia Code: Title 18.2, Section 250, et seq.
Charges & Penalties: Generally
Schedule I and II substances include heroin, cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine. Schedule III substances include codeine and other members of the codeine family (in addition to opioids). Schedule IV substances include Valium, Xanax , and other sedatives and tranquilizers.
Schedule V substances include drugs such as cough medicine with codeine. Schedule VI substances include materials that aren't drugs in the conventional sense but may be used as drugs, such as inhalants (as long as there's supporting evidence of abuse or intent to abuse).
Charges for the possession of these substances are as follows:
- Schedule I or II - Class 5 felony; 2-10 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Schedule III - Class 1 misdemeanor; up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Schedule IV - Class 2 misdemeanor; up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Schedule V - Class 3 misdemeanor; fine of up to $500.
- Schedule VI - Class 4 misdemeanor; fine of up to $250.
Charges & Penalties: Marijuana
Charges for the possession of cannabis (i.e. marijuana) are as follows:
- Less than 1/2 oz. - Misdemeanor; up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
- Less than 1/2 oz. (second offense) - Class 1 misdemeanor; up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
- More than 1/2 oz. - Often charged as possession with intent to distribute (although defense attorneys will press for supporting evidence before or at trial), a Class 5 felony; 2-10 yrs. in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Note: Legally prescribed cannabis extracts with high amounts of CBD (used to treat seizures and other conditions) and low amounts of THC (which causes the "high") are allowed under state law.
Drug Treatment Courts & Deferred Sentencing
First offenders with no history of violent crime may plead guilty to drug possession charges, resulting in probation, in exchange for undergoing drug treatment and submitting to drug tests.
Virginia's Drug Treatment Courts handle certain drug cases as follows:
- A multidisciplinary team made up of the judge, an attorney, probation officers, and treatment professionals work toward treating the defendant's drug abuse problem;
- The goal is to treat drug addicts and restore them to productive and lawful lives;
- The court actively monitors the defendant's progress, enacting sanctions when necessary;
- The structure of the treatment plan is standardized, but specific treatment is individualized;
- Defendant is subject to regular drug testing and probation monitoring; and
- Beginning stage relapse is considered part of the process and won't lead to additional sanctions.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Virginia Drug Possession Laws: Related Resources
Charged With Possession in Virginia? An Attorney Can Help
As far as drug charges are concerned, simple possession are punished the least severely in Virginia, but can still result in felony charges for certain substances and amounts. A skilled attorney will be able to advocate on your behalf and mount a solid defense. If you have questions or need representation, get in touch with an experienced Virginia drug crimes attorney today.