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Virginia court contempt risks for recent pot or alcohol use

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Virginia court contempt- Image of marijuana and joint

Virginia court contempt is a risk for coming to court smelling of marijuana or alcohol, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Virginia court dates are the time to focus on achieving the best possible outcome in your case, and not to contribute to any sideshow of getting charged with or convicted for contempt of court for being in the courthouse smelling of marijuana or alcohol. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I do not think that presence of pot nor alcohol in on one’s breath nor in his bloodstream should by itself permit a contempt finding, without a sufficient nexus found between such substance use and the user’s behavior in court.

Trial judge summarily jails prosecution witness for Northern Virginia court contempt for recent marijuana use

After marijuana possession of up to one ounce became legal recently in Virginia under Virginia Code § 4.1-1100, I am more often smelling this stinky weed in the courthouses. The Virginia Mercury has reported that recently Virginia court Judge James A. Fisher interrupted the testimony of an alleged crime victim “to question her drug use, sentencing her to 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she said she had smoked marijuana earlier in the day.” It appears from the article on this matter that the judge did not preface his questioning of this contempt defendant by telling her of her right to obtain a lawyer and to remain silent. The prosecution, if not also the defense, objects to this contempt conviction. The court next week will decide whether to reconsider its contempt conviction in this matter.

Moreover: “Prosecutors also wrote that Fisher refused to hear from detectives who had interacted with her before the trial, who they said would have testified her ‘behaviors were consistent with all prior interactions and that she exhibited no signs of intoxication prior to her testimony.'” ADDENDUM: The Washington Post reports that the judge ordered a blood test here, which would be to test for THC content, which is a further invasion of her rights.

What does the relevant Virginia court contempt law say?

Virginia court contempt law says among other things:  “The courts and judges may issue attachments for contempt, and punish them summarily, only in the following cases… 1. Misbehavior in the presence of the court, or so near thereto as to obstruct or interrupt the administration of justice.” Other actions also permit a summary contempt finding, as listed at the same statute, codified as Virginia Code § 18.2-456. Where, as here, a jury did not consider the contempt charge the judge may not “impose a fine exceeding $250 or imprison more than ten days.” Va. Code § 18.2-457.

Should a judge punish marijuana use any more severely than alcohol when considering a contempt citation?

Of course a Virginia court judge should not punish marijuana any more severely tfhan alcohol use when considering a contempt citation. However, marijuana’s recent legalization for personal use in Virginia does not automatically remove the societal stigma that can still attach to pot, together with improvident court rulings about marijuana.

Is it worth entering the courthouse under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or other drugs?

Clearly, it is wise not to consume any marijuana, beer, wine nor hard liquor within at least 24 hours before entering a Virginia court. Your case in the courthouse should be your focus, and not any sideshow of discovery provision. If you enter the courthouse with alcohol or marijuana in your system, ideally you will have consulted in advance with a qualified lawyer about such defenses as no causation between consuming such items hours or more earlier, and behavior and psychological perception in court, and what to do if the judge questions the person about such use and even requests or orders a breath alcohol test or blood test to check for concentration of one or both items in one’s bloodstream.

Fairfax criminal lawyer pursues your best defense against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for a free in-person confidential consultation about your court-pending case.