Prosecution of Fairfax Possession with Intent to Distribute
The prosecution of a possession with intent to distribute case can be difficult. When someone hires a Fairfax drug lawyer for their defense, he or she can make the process even more difficult for the prosecution. Since these charges are very serious, it is crucial to make sure you have all the benefits to your defense you can have; hiring an experienced Fairfax drug attorney is one of the first steps you can take to bolster your case.
What Prosecutors Need to Prove
Every single crime has a list of elements which can thought of like ingredients in a recipe. You cannot complete a cake if you do not have the flour or the butter or whatever else is needed for the recipe. In making a case, the prosecution has to be able to prove each and every element, or component, of the recipe.
In a drug-offense case they obviously are going to need to prove the substance involved was in fact a drug. Beyond that it really depends on the nature of the charge, but each kind of charge has its own elements and each element needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proof of intent can come in many ways. In cases involving drug possession, if there are certain quantities involved, there is a presumption by statute that the person intended to distribute the substance. However, there are other indicators as well.
A perfect example is where a person is found in possession of a quantity of drugs along with items consistent with the distribution of those drugs. Some of those items might include scales or little baggies the person might use to break apart large quantity of drugs into smaller doses for the purpose of distribution. Fairfax law enforcement might search the home and uncover documents or computer records indicating a client list, or might notice the weight that has been moved over a period of time.
Another source of evidence is information from an informant. In many cases of drug distribution crimes the government will have an informant. In those circumstances they might use tools like controlled buys, where marked currency is used to purchase the drugs, which are then given straight back to the police. Once the informant does that, law enforcement has pretty strong evidence against an individual at that point.
The primary evidence is the drug itself and then other things associated with it are the laboratory analysis and testimony from the person who conducted the lab analysis. This evidence is presented to determine whether or not the substance was illegal. No drug case will move forward without that evidence.
Aside from that, the prosecution needs to prove that the person actually or constructively possessed the drug. Depending on the kind of case, say a distribution or intent-to-distribute case, then they need to prove other factors that will allow the trier of fact to come to a conclusion about whether the person possessed an illegal substance with prior intent to distribute.
Sentencing in Fairfax Possession with Intent to Distribute Cases
Sentencing for drug offenses are typically handled by the use of the sentencing guidelines for felonies. That is true if the judge sits as the trier of fact or if a person pleads guilty to a felony. If a jury finds a person guilty, the jury will recommend sentencing according to the statutes, and that is one primary reason that the Commonwealth almost never waives their right to a jury in a drug-offense case.
The jury will only know that if it is a Schedule I or II substance, for example, that the penalty is five to 40 years in prison. The minimum the jury will recommend is five years. However, if it is a first offense and fairly low quantity of drugs, your sentencing guideline number is going to be between a year to a year and a half in prison. If someone takes a case like this to trial and loses, it is likely they will get somewhere around three and a half to four more years in prison than if they had pleaded guilty or a judge sat as a trier of fact.
The Constitutional issues that can come up in drug-offense cases are generally Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment provides the right to remain silent during questioning, so whether or not a person was advised of those rights can be argued under the Fifth Amendment.
There are no alternative sentencing available for possession with intent to distribute cases in Fairfax. The situation is very different from one where the person is charged with simple possession, and that is why it is very important to try to prevent charges for possession from escalating to charges for possession with the intent to distribute.
Drug Charges More Serious Than Possession with Intent
There are aggravating factors that can make a Fairfax possession with intent charge more serious than it already is, especially possession with the intent to distribute in and around schools or other government buildings. The presence of firearms in conjunction with the possession of narcotics in an intent-to-distribute charge certainly is an aggravating factor that can rack up the person’s sentence. Distribution in much larger quantities can be an aggravating factor under certain provisions of the Virginia guidelines. That is not true with every kind of drug that may be distributed, but it is true for drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.
Value of an Experienced Fairfax Drug Lawyer
Anytime you face charges for possession with the intent to distribute, if you are convicted you stand a pretty strong chance of going to prison. For that reason alone, it is a very good idea to retain a Fairfax drug lawyer who has experience facing these charges. He or she will know what to expect heading into the case and can course-correct should anything unexpected come up.