Oct 27, 2010 Virginia marijuana defendants – Fairfax criminal lawyer on 251
Virginia Marijuana defendants are cautioned about 251 by Fairfax criminal lawyer
Virginia marijuana defendants in some District courtrooms constitute a parade of unrepresented people on their first court date. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that word has gotten out that if a marijuana possession defendant has no relevant prior convictions, s/he can save money on a lawyer and get the case ultimately dismissed by successfully completing a program of drug education, clean urine testing, and community service. This is an option under Virginia Code § 18.2-251, colloquially called “251” (and which applies to drug possession beyond just marijuana), and it is solely up to the judge whether to grant such a disposition.
Virginia marijuana defendants should be cautious about judicial descriptions of the 251 program
Recently, a District Court judge provided a short talk to Virginia marijuana defendants in the courtroom about 251 by pointing out that a guilt for marijuana possession will follow them for the rest of their lives, but a 251 disposition will lead ultimately to a dismissal if successfully completed.
Fairfax drug lawyer on the need to obtain 251 advice from a qualified criminal defense lawyer
Why does Virginia have the 251 provision? Was the provision passed by the legislature more to help Virginia marijuana defendants or more to help alleviate overcrowded court dockets? Regardless, as a Virginia drug lawyer, I urge even 251-eligible marijuana defendants to get representation —- or at least advice before court —- from a qualified criminal defense lawyer, for such reasons as the following:
Fairfax criminal lawyer on the importance of assessing the strengths of one’s case
– By the court date, a lawyer can advise Virginia marijuana defendants whether the prosecutor even has the ability to prove you guilty on the day of trial. The lawyer will see whether the law enforcement officer is even present and whether sufficient scientific evidence exists to prove that the seized material is marijuana. A qualified lawyer will provide you a full analysis of your chances of winning, including the chances of suppressing the seizure of alleged marijuana as the fruit of an unlawful arrest and/or search; the chances of arguing that you did not have possession (knowledge, dominion and control) over the alleged marijuana; and the attack options on chemical testing to determine whether the substance is marijuana or another unlawful drug.
– A 251 disposition risks suspended driving, with or without restricted driving privileges. Such suspension is judge-optional for Virginia marijuana defendants and mandatory for all other 251 recipients.
– A 251 disposition places Virginia marijuana defendants and all 251 defendants on probation. A finding of a 251 probation violation can preclude a dismissal of the case, get a guilty verdict entered, and get a jail sentence up to thirty days.
– A 251 result can harm immigration status.
– Beware whether the military, security clearance authorities and laws, employers, and educators will treat a 251 disposition as a conviction for marijuana defendants and all other 251 recipients. A 251 can cause a violation of probation that was in effect at the time of the incident leading to the 251 disposition.
– You get stuck paying the fees for supervision under 251.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, DUI, drug and sex prosecutions. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.