Drug Possession Charges in Fairfax
Drug possession is always a serious charge in Fairfax, Virginia. The nature of the substance that law enforcement are alleging you possess is largely what drives the degree of the seriousness of the charge. If you have questions about how drug possession charges are dealt with in Virginia, speak with a Fairfax drug lawyer.
Simple possession of marijuana is treated as a misdemeanor and there are certain other drugs that are treated as misdemeanors. If you are alleged to possess something in Schedule I or II, then you are looking at a felony charge. Examples of Schedule I or II drugs are heroin, PCP, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The number one factor that affects the seriousness of the charge is the type of drugs that you are alleged to have possessed. Although, even these misdemeanor charges are still considered very serious charges in Fairfax.
Fairfax Law Enforcement Focus on Drug Charges
Drug possession is definitely a priority in Fairfax. In many cases a routine traffic stop leads to the police officer having an inkling that the person might be involved in drugs and asking, “Do you have any drugs or weapons on you?” It is always something they are looking for, even if it is a traffic stop or some other encounter that has nothing to do with drugs.
Diversion Programs or Alternative Sentencing
In the Code of Virginia Title 18.2, Section 251 outlines a very specific disposition for people who are in that situation. If you have never been charged with anything drug-related but now you are charged with simple possession, then you are allowed to enter into and complete a program. The statute says the drug charge against you in Fairfax gets dismissed once you have completed that program.
The program has three basic components. First, you have to complete an evaluation and assessment to determine whether or not you are at high risk to continue to use drugs. Following that, either treatment or education is available and will be ordered by the probation officer who is managing your case.
Second, you will have to complete some community-service hours. The number of hours depends upon your possession charge. If it is a misdemeanor, the statute requires 24 hours of community service. If it is a felony, then it is 100 hours of community service. The judges may limit it to that many number of hours. It can be more, but it is unlikely to be less.
Third, you will lose your license for a period of 6 months. You will be able to get it restricted so that you can go to and from school or work and certainly attend programs ordered as a part of this dispossession. The good thing about this is that after you have completed your probation, you will be able to go back to the court in Fairfax and have the charge against you dismissed.
Constitutional Issues in Drug Possession Cases
There are Constitutional issues in almost every drug-possession case, because in almost every case the person is accused after having their car, person, or home searched. It is very unusual that a police officer just walks up to a person who is holding some illegal drug in his or her hand.
It is almost always the case that the search results are required for the government to prove their case, and in most cases these searches are conducted without a search warrant. This implicates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which says that you have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, unless the officer has a warrant.
Through the years the courts have crafted certain exceptions to the warrant requirements. Since many of those are well known by police officers and prosecutors alike, it is up to your lawyer to do the right kind of issue-spotting and determine whether or not a challenge on the Constitutional issues could bear fruit.
Biggest Mistakes To Avoid
From the client’s perspective, the biggest mistake anybody can make is admitting anything to the police. The government always has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did possess the thing that they are accused of possessing. In most cases, the best evidence the government can have is right out of the client’s mouth.
What this means, is that the government is not going to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who put the drugs there. They are not going to be able to prove that anybody knew about them being there, unless somebody gives some kind of confession or statement to the police acknowledging the presence of the drugs. It is for that reason, absolutely beyond any question, the biggest mistake that anybody can make in a drug possession case is confessing to the police. You have the right to remain silent and should therefore do so.
Building a Defense For Fairfax Drug Possession Charges
It certainly depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding each case, but most cases have at least a few things in common. There is almost always some kind of search issue and an attorney will always look for those. If an attorney is able to exclude the proceeds of the search, then in almost every case the charges will ultimately be dismissed.
In some cases there are issues with whether or not the government can prove the person actually did possess the drugs. The perfect example is the case where drugs are found inside the vehicle and they charge everybody in that vehicle. In those cases, unless a person made a statement acknowledging presence of the drugs, there are good grounds for defense because the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office needs to prove the presence of the drugs. They must prove not only that the person knew that there were drugs in the vehicle, but also that they had some sort of dominion of control over the substances.
In other words, it is not enough to be in the car while the drugs are or might be present. You have to actually have some role in getting them in the car. If the government cannot prove that beyond a reasonable doubt then they are going to have problems with their case.
Contact a Fairfax Drug Lawyer
In these cases there is a lot of information the Fairfax drug attorney needs to acquire and it cannot always be done quickly. Therefore, you need to give your lawyer time to work your case when information needs to be obtained.
There may be things like suppression motions that need to be filed ahead of time or challenges to the state laboratory results which analyzed the substance they allege you possessed. There are certainly defenses available to you, so don’t hire a lawyer a week or two before your court date.