What You Need To Know About Your Marijuana Possession Charge In Virginia

Posted on: 9 August 2016

If you've recently been charged with possession of marijuana in the state of Virginia, it's not always a simple, clear-cut case. How you will be convicted and sentenced—if at all—depends on a number of factors. A criminal defense attorney can help with your case, and they will need to know a few details, from whether or not this is a first offense all the way to where the marijuana was found. These components will be key in crafting your defense and could make a difference in whether or not you are found guilty.

Number of Offenses

Whether this is your first or second offense in the state of Virginia, it's considered a misdemeanor, but the fines and possible jail time vary. Your first offense carries a possibility of 30 days in jail with a maximum $500 fine, whereas any subsequent convictions can result in a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. With all convictions, first or subsequent, you also lose your driver's license for six months.

But here's the thing.

If this is your first offense, an attorney may be able to help you get probation instead of jail time. During the terms of your probation, you will be expected to perform up to 24 hours of community service and to submit to drug and alcohol tests. The judge may also allow you to maintain a restricted driver's license so you can transport yourself back and forth to work, school, or your child's day care.

If you successfully meet the requirements of your probation and pass all drug and alcohol tests, the judge will dismiss the charges.

Knowingly In Possession

In order to receive a conviction for marijuana possession, the prosecutor will have to prove that you knew the substance in your possession was actually marijuana.

For example, suppose you borrow a friend's coat. You stick your hands in the pockets and feel a bag, but you don't know what it is. Or similarly, your friend may ask you to hold her pack of cigarettes in your purse, inside of which are several rolled joints. If you are charged with possession, your attorney could argue that you were aware of something in the pocket or the presence of a pack of cigarettes, but you had no idea it contained marijuana.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession

Actual possession is a legal term that means the substance is on or with you or your person; you have direct, physical contact with it. The example above with the marijuana in the coat pocket is considered actual possession.

Constructive possession, on the other hand, means the substance was located in or on something within your control, like your home or your car.

How could this make a difference in your case? Well, constructive possession tends to be a little harder to prove and therefore is easier to defend against, particularly if you are not the sole owner or occupant of the car or building. For instance, if you have multiple passengers in your car, and one of them decides to stash a bag of marijuana under the seat without your knowledge, this is much easier to defend against than if you were driving alone.

Affirmative Defense For Medical Marijuana

If you have intractable epilepsy, or a child with this condition, and were charged with possession of medical marijuana, you may have what's called an affirmative defense. This is a legal type of self-defense that will help you in court. It doesn't protect you from being arrested and jailed, but if you have a written order from your doctor for medical cannabis, and the substance falls within a certain range of cannabinoid concentration, you may be found not guilty when your case goes to trial. 

Contact a lawyer at a law firm like Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices for more information.