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Harsh Virginia drug laws- Fairfax criminal lawyer on avoiding them

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Harsh Virginia drug laws- Fairfax criminal lawyer on avoiding convictions and harsh sentencing

Harsh Virginia drug laws remain despite the commonwealth’s liberalization personal marijuana use. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I see this week’s harsh nine-year prison sentence for Brittney Griner for smuggling less than a gram of THC oil as an opportunity for prosecutors, judges and jurors in Virginia to take the opposite approach of applying compassion and balance for users and to distinguish small-time sellers from major long-term drug traffickers. Moreover, the same president and Congressmembers decrying her sentence will hopefully work to reform the harshness of the federal drug laws and the way in which such cases are prosecuted.

Possessing even an unprescribed pill of Adderall risks the harsh Virginia sentence of up to ten years in prison

Harsh Virginia drug laws start with unreasonably high maximum sentencing for possessing even one dose of something even as mild as Adderall for personal use. Even possessing a small amount of Adderall or any other non-prescribed Schedule I or II drug — under Virginia Code § 18.2-250 —is a Virginia Class 5 felony, carrying up to ten years in prison (but certainly eligible for a first-time ultimate dismissal if eligible under 251 dismissal statute, which mainly involves having no prior 251 dispositions and no prior applicable drug convictions.) A conviction for possessing with intent to distribute (or distributing or selling) even one pill of Adderall or other Schedule I or II drug — under Virginia Code § 18.2-248 — carries five years to forty years in prison (fortunately with all the incarceration time suspendable), with (for someone with no prior convictions) seven months to one year and four months as the advisory sentencing guidelines range, with probation being available as an alternative sentence.

Possessing a firearm along with unlawful drugs allows a mandatory minimum jail sentence for the weapon

Further on harsh Virginia drug laws: When a firearm is possessed simultaneously to possessing unlawful controlled substances / drugs, that allows a mandatory minimum incarceration sentence for the weapon. As Second Amendment-friendly is Virginia in comparison to other states, that does not diminish the commonwealth’s harsh laws for the foregoing behavior nor for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

How do I avoid the severity of harsh Virginia drug laws?

Avoiding harsh Virginia drug laws starts with having nothing to do with illegal drugs in the first place, and staying away from others whom you know are in possession of controlled substances. If you get investigated or caught for violating the controlled substance laws, remember the importance of asserting your Fifth Amendment Constitutional right to remain silent with police. If you get arrested or otherwise prosecuted for violating any drug laws, timely obtain a qualified Virginia criminal lawyer who knows how to successfully defend such cases.

What if I get a Virginia drug conviction? How do I avoid jail and prison and other severe sentencing?

Talk with your criminal lawyer about the steps you will both take as a team to reduce your exposure to conviction and harsh Virginia sentencing for an alleged drug law violation. Your lawyer can talk with the prosecutor about not seeking the most severe conviction merely if the law allows seeking that, as well as not seeking a tough sentence merely if the law permits that. Any prosecutor who thinks Brittney Griner has been treated too severely should understand such talking points.

Does community service and other self improvement really help my prospects for negotiating my case?

Many of my clients pursue my recommended self improvement steps like a person on a major mission. Some others delay, wondering how it will be of any help, or wondering whether taking such steps is an admission of guilt. Consider that potentially harsh Virginia drug sentencing commonly includes such self improvement steps as drug treatment as directed, and requires community service for obtaining a 251 disposition. If these steps are important enough for a judge to order as part of sentencing, then taking such steps proactively can reflect well on the defendant for purposes of negotiating the case and for any sentencing. Concern about doing self improvement as being seen as admitting guilt makes no sense. The prosecutor already suspects or believes the defendant is guilty. Proactively improving oneself does not worsen the prosecutor’s perception of the criminal defendant. The judge ordinarily is only going to know about your self improvement steps for any sentencing (which only happens with a conviction), unless that information also needs to be shared with the judge for purposes of obtaining and maintaining pretrial release status pending the defendant’s trial date.

What do I say to the judge if sentenced for a Virginia drug offense?

Judges can smell BS from a mile away. If you are convicted and sentenced for a drug offense, work with your lawyer about what you will say to the judge, to be as convincing as possible that you will not in the future commit drug crimes, and to reduce your exposure to potentially harsh Virginia sentencing results. If you were possessing drugs to self medicate, hopefully before sentencing you will have obtained a lawful medication or medical regimen to treat the ailment. If you used drugs for the thrill of it, then hopefully before the sentencing date you will have shown that you have broken any drug habit. If you were dealing in drugs, before sentencing hopefully you will show that you are gainfully employed and will not any longer look to make a quick buck from illegal drug commerce. For the latter behavior, once a person gets caught with drug selling, then it is no longer a worthwhile business risk to engage in such behavior.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz repeatedly and successfully represents criminal defendants prosecuted for alleged Virginia DUI, drug, felony and misdemeanor violations. Call 703-383-1100 for your free in-person initial consultation with Jon Katz about your case that is pending in court. 

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