Marijuana possession is a class of crimes which is treated uniquely among other drugs. Possession of most drugs is considered a felony, but marijuana is an exception. Marijuana is only a misdemeanor in Virginia if someone is found in possession of it, although it is still not legal, as it is in some other states. Therefore the charges can still be serious. Another way that marijuana is treated differently from other drugs is that the first offender program is slightly different. It plays out in the general district court, and the consequences are less far reaching than possession of other drugs. Regardless, once the person is found to be in possession of marijuana, particularly if they are found guilty of a second or subsequent offense, it can trigger serious penalties, including active jail time as well as license suspension, so it is important to work with a Loudoun County marijuana possession lawyer if facing these charges.
Everyone should know that a marijuana possession charge is a serious crime, that will go on their criminal record and follow them around for the rest of their life if convicted. If suspected of possession, they should know not to consent to any searches and should firmly assert their right to remain silent. They should also be aware, however, that there are a number of effective ways that cases of this type can be defended, from asserting constitutional issues to challenging the government’s proof. There is always hope in cases like this, and particularly in cases where a person has no criminal record. There are, in fact, first offender programs available even if the person was to lose at trial.
The changes in the law concerning marijuana that have occurred in neighboring jurisdictions have had little or no impact in Virginia. While it is probably reasonable to anticipate that a similar change may come to the Commonwealth at some point in the future, most Loudoun County marijuana possession lawyers and those familiar with the legislative process in the state do not anticipate that it will be any time soon. Marijuana is still one of the most common charges in Loudoun County. It is also one of the most common ways that police justify searches of vehicles as well as apartments, hotel rooms, and homes. It is common for police to say that they smelled marijuana when they encountered someone, and for that to lead to a search in which other things turn up. It is very important for people who travel among these jurisdictions, and who may use marijuana legally in other jurisdictions, to appreciate that it is unwise to carry it in their car in Virginia. It is very easy for police to get to a search of a person’s vehicle, particularly if there is any lingering smell, and this can lead not only to drug charges, but potentially to other charges, depending on what is found in the vehicle. Often individuals may be unaware of the items that have been left by passengers or other drivers of the vehicle.
Marijuana possession cases are very similar to many other kinds of drug cases, and a marijuana possession attorney in Loudoun County will defend it in a similar fashion, but there are unique aspects as well. The similarities primarily involve the burden of proof surrounding constructive possession, which is the most common way that the case is charged, and involves the government having to prove that an individual knows of the presence of the drug and that they also are aware of what it is. In addition, they have to show that the person is exercising dominion and control over the drug. This is similar for most drugs. What is unique about marijuana prosecution is that these cases almost always begin with a search where law enforcement claims that they have smelled marijuana. Other drugs, for the most part, do not have any kind of smell and are usually found because there is a search warrant for something else, or during a search pursuant to a lawful arrest for something else.
There is generally more leniency by judges and juries when they have discretion to be lenient in cases of marijuana possession. This is not considered nearly as serious as something like heroin, cocaine, or prescription pills. While Loudoun County courts treat it seriously and there are penalties which are severe and can be imposed as a consequence of a person possessing marijuana, it nevertheless seems to be true that it is being treated less and less harshly in some jurisdictions under the right circumstances, particularly when the individual has no other criminal record and the marijuana use is not tied to any other crime.
A marijuana possession charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, which means that it is a crime. Any conviction will remain on their criminal record permanently in Virginia and anywhere they might live. It cannot be expunged from their record under Virginia law. The only way to have the fact of conviction removed is to receive a pardon from the governor’s office. Depending on the line of work that a person is in, the educational track they are pursuing, or the other situations in their life, having a drug conviction can potentially close some doors for them. However, a single drug possession charge is quite a bit more common than most people might believe. As long as there are not additional charges that follow, it generally becomes less serious over time. Even people who have sensitive types of jobs, hold licenses, or have clearances can, in some cases, overcome a conviction of this kind. Nevertheless, it is damaging in most cases for at least some period of time. For that reason, it is better to avoid conviction if at all possible.
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