The recent decriminalization of marijuana possession in the nearby jurisdiction of Washington, D.C. has had a somewhat mitigating effect on marijuana prosecutions in Prince William County. The ever-increasing political moods to legalize or marginalize marijuana criminalization at both the state and federal levels have a mitigating effect on the current and future prosecutorial attitudes toward marijuana offenses. However, simple possession of marijuana is seen as much different than possessing marijuana with an intent to sell or distribute it.
Even though prosecutors today are more tolerant of marijuana possession than in the past, marijuana is still illegal. If you are facing possession charges, you should not risk appearing in court with a dedicated drug lawyer by your side. An experienced Prince William County marijuana possession lawyer could provide valuable advice and serve as your advocate in and out of court. Call today to discuss your case.
Unlike other drugs, marijuana has yet to be conclusively proven to be particularly harmful or dangerous when consumed by humans. There are side effects, but it cannot be overdosed on, does not lead to strong addictions, nor does it impair the human senses while operating a motor vehicle to an analogous extent as alcohol or sleeping pills. Some studies even show that people under the influence of marijuana tend to drive more safely than normal drivers. This makes defending marijuana possession cases easier than other drug cases.
When the defendant is a young person charged with a first offense, judges tend to be more lenient. They also tend to be lenient in cases where the person is consuming marijuana in order to alleviate some legitimate source of pain, because the person is too poor or averse to acquire pharmaceutical painkillers that require a prescription and have addictive properties. Judges are also lenient if a person’s marijuana charges are spaced out in time, supporting an inference that they do not regularly use marijuana. Finally, judges are lenient with defendants who have just come from a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal and were unaware that Virginia has not yet decriminalized marijuana possession.
The long-term implications of marijuana possession charges may throw a wrench into federal eligibility determination and employment applications. Reviewing entities would not want to make a determination until the case has concluded. Since marijuana possession is still subject to standard criminalization and punishment under federal law, a marijuana conviction could jeopardize many employment opportunities and security clearance levels.
Outside of things related to the federal government, a marijuana possession charge has relatively less impact on a person’s life than other crimes do. However, it is still an unpleasant charge to have to disclose if it is pending or has resulted in a conviction. Places that are particularly sensitive to alleged substance abuse improprieties might scrutinize such a charge more severely, like medical or pharmaceutical employers. Legally, a possession of marijuana conviction would require the court to suspend the defendant’s license for six months, as with any drug crime convictions in Virginia.
If a person is facing their first offense marijuana charge, they would almost always be allowed to enroll in the first offender drug program to earn a dismissal of the charge at a later point in time. However, first offender dismissals are not expungable like normal dismissals, so there would still be a record that the person was charged with possessing marijuana.
The first offender program would also result in a six-month license suspension unless the person was not in operation of a motor vehicle at the time of possession and is willing to do extra community service hours. If someone does not wish to do the first offender program, a first-time marijuana possession conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, and a six-month license suspension. It is also commonplace for first offense marijuana charges to be reduced to possession of paraphernalia charges if the defendant is willing to plead guilty to the reduced charge.
Second or subsequent offenses are punished as normal Class 1 misdemeanors, carrying up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, and six months of license suspension. However, it is rare for marijuana defendants to be sentenced to a notable amount of jail time given the mitigated attitude of prosecutors and judges toward marijuana possession offenders. For many people, the worst thing about marijuana convictions is the six-month license suspension.
If a person is charged with more than simple possession of marijuana, such as possession with intent to distribute, the punishments can be much more severe. If the amount of marijuana possessed is between a half-ounce and 5 pounds, the charge will be a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. If the amount is over five pounds, the punishment increases from 5 to 30 years in prison.
Although the attitudes towards marijuana possession are changing, a conviction can still have a serious impact on your life. If you were charged with a drug offense, you should consult with a Prince William County marijuana possession lawyer. A dedicated criminal defense lawyer could negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf and represent you in trial if necessary. Call today to set up a case review.
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