Virginia Drug Distribution Charges
Virginia has very steep penalties for drug distribution offenses. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, we have experience representing defendants charged with distribution. We know what defenses to raise and fight tirelessly to protect the legal rights of criminal defendants. If you are facing drug distribution charges in Virginia, call our experienced drug crime defense lawyers at 703-934-0101 to set up your free consultation.
Virginia Drug Distribution Definition
According to Section § 18.2-248 of Virginia’s Criminal Code, it is unlawful to distribute or sell, or possess, with intent to distribute or sell, a controlled substance. Controlled substances are categorized into schedules. Penalties for distributing these substances vary depending on the schedule in which the substance was classified.
Schedule I and II
Schedule I drugs include heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. These are typically drugs that have no medical use and are highly addictive or prone to abuse.
Schedule III and IV
Schedule III substances include opioids and codeine, while Schedule IV includes sedatives like Xanax. This grouping includes drugs that can be legally prescribed but are still highly habit-forming and subject to strict regulation.
Though cannabis is not considered a controlled substance under Virginia law, it is still generally against the law to distribute it. Virginia has recently voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana effective July 2020, but keep in mind that the distribution of marijuana is still a felony offense.
Schedule V substances include low-level drugs with a low risk of abuse, like cough medicine.
The penalties for drug distribution offenses vary depending on multiple factors, such as the type of substance and the amount the defendant was distributing.
Schedule I and II
Distributing Schedule I and II controlled substances is a felony. Upon conviction, someone guilty of this offense can be sentenced to up to forty years in prison and charged up to $500,000 in fines. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, but at the judge’s discretion, could lead to a sentence of life in prison. A subsequent offense carries a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Methamphetamines are treated differently than other schedule I drugs. Distributing methamphetamines carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison for the first violation, plus a fine of up to $500,000. A second meth distribution conviction means ten years to life.
There are also enhanced penalties for large-scale dealers. Distributing the following amounts can lead to a mandatory five-year minimum sentence or life imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to $1 million, even for a first offense.
100 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin
500 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine
250 grams or more of a substance with a cocaine base
10 grams or more of methamphetamines
Schedule III and IV
In Virginia, distributing a Schedule III substance is a Class 5 felony, while a Schedule IV substance is a Class 6 felony.
Class 5 felonies typically carry a prison sentence of one to ten years, but the judge may, at their discretion, give a sentence of up to twelve months plus a $2,500 fine. Similarly, a Class 6 felony may carry a prison sentence of one to five years, but a judge may choose to reduce it at their discretion.
Distribution, cultivation, and sale of marijuana are felonies.
Cultivating any amount of marijuana can result in up to 30 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.
The penalty for distributing marijuana varies depending on the amount. These penalties are as follows:
Half an ounce to five pounds carries a sentence of one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Five pounds to 100 kilograms carries a sentence of five to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
More than 100 kilograms carries a sentence of 20 years to life, plus a fine of up to $100,000.
Certain aggravating circumstances may also increase a sentence for marijuana distribution. For example, selling to a minor may mean two to 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. There are also special laws relating to school zones and bus stops, leading to a fine of up to $100,000 and a sentence of one to five years in prison. Call the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney and learn more about potential penalties for a drug distribution conviction.
The prosecutor must prove every element of the crime to convict a defendant of distribution of a controlled substance. This means that they must prove that you knowingly and intentionally possessed marijuana or controlled substances and distributed or intended to distribute them. Distribution does not necessarily mean selling. It can also include giving away or gifting.
To prove that you intended to distribute a controlled substance, the prosecutor may introduce evidence that there was an exchange or demand for money as consideration for a pill, capsule, tablet, or other substance. They may also look at other evidence to prove intent, such as whether you had paraphernalia and materials to package and distribute drugs, like scales, baggies, or large amounts of cash.
Potential Defenses to Drug Distribution Charges
In addition to raising constitutional and procedural objections to suppress unlawfully-obtained evidence, your attorney may be able to argue certain defenses to reduce your charge or have your case dismissed. One common defense to a Virginia drug distribution charge is accommodation. Accommodation means that the person doing the distribution was doing it on behalf of somebody else and was not profiting at all from the exchange. This is usually a less serious offense than a standard distribution charge.
Speak with an Attorney about Your Drug Distribution Charge
If you are facing a charge of distributing marijuana or a controlled substance, consider speaking with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A drug conviction can carry very serious penalties and cause lifelong consequences for the defendant. Trust the attorneys at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall to fight for your rights and raise every possible defense to your distribution charge.
Call us at 703-934-0101 to set up a free consultation and tell us more about your case.