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What penalties might flow from a Virginia drug charge?

Virginia residents facing drug charges may be concerned with what penalties they could face if they are found guilty. Being aware of the consequences may help those facing charges choose how to defend themselves. With the proper defense, Virginians accused of drug crimes have a chance to lessen their penalties or have their charges dropped.

The severity of the penalty will depend on the crime itself. Manufacturing or distributing drugs, or possessing drugs with the intent to distribute will result in more serious penalties than simple drug possession. Penalties will also depend on the type of drugs possessed. Drugs in Virginia are categorized from Schedule I to Schedule V. Schedule I drugs, such as heroin and LSD, are those fpr which the potential for abuse is great, whereas those substances on Schedule V, such as cough medicine, are less likely to be attractive to drug abusers. Schedule VI contains those substances that are not conventionally considered as drugs, but can be abused as well.

Bringing Schedule I and II drugs into Virginia can result in anywhere from five to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to a half-a-million dollars. Substances that are classified on Schedules III, IV or V can mean up to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Trafficking large amounts of heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine is punishable by a minimum of five years in prison, and a maximum of life, plus a fine of up to $1 million. What is considered a large amount will vary depending on the substance.

Marijuana falls under a unique class of Schedule I drug and comes with its own penalties. Simple possession of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and the accused won't face more than 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. The penalties for distribution of marijuana will depend on quantity. For less than half an ounce, the penalty will likely be less than a year of jail time and a fine of less than $2,500. However, distributing more than five pounds of marijuana will likely result in anywhere between five and 30 years of prison time.

With such severe possible penalties, it is important to come up with a solid defense strategy if you are charged with a drug crime.

Source: Virginia Tech Human Resources, "Virginia Drug Penalties," accessed on Dec. 2, 2014

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