What Happens If You’re Caught With Marijuana? 3 Things You Need to Know
More than 94 million Americans say they have used marijuana before, and while many states have chosen to legalize or decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana, neither the Commonwealth of Virginia nor the federal government have done so as of July 2019. If you are caught in possession of marijuana it can be difficult to know what to expect when you’re confronted by the police, which is one of the first reasons you should seek the assistance of a good lawyer. An attorney can help you understand what is happening, what charges you’re facing, and what can be done to avoid certain life changing consequences. Here’s what you should know about being found in possession of marijuana:
1. You may be charged with trafficking.
Purchasing marijuana in a state where possession has been decriminalized or legalized does not make it legal to then subsequently transport that marijuana into a state where it is not legal. Further, by crossing state lines, you may be surprised to find that you are not only charged with simple possession, but possibly with drug trafficking. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, certain presumptions arise as a result of the quantity of marijuana possessed. For example, getting caught with a couple of grams of marijuana will probably only result in a charge of simple possession. However, if you are discovered transporting several ounces of marijuana in the Commonwealth, law enforcement will often come to the conclusion that your intent was not just to use, but to distribute. Any amount over one-half of an ounce can be charged as a felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia depending on the circumstances. These types of situations can be difficult to navigate alone, which makes it essential that you promptly consult with an attorney who can explain what charges you are dealing with and can help you create a defense.
2. You may have to pay a fine or have your driver’s license suspended.
In Virginia, possession a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor and for a first-time offender, the penalties can include up to 30 days in jail, a mandatory fine and a mandatory license suspension. While Virginia has a “first offender” program which can allow citizens charged with simple possession to avoid a conviction if they complete certain requirements, it is important to note that such a disposition will still leave a blemish on your permanent legal record. Understanding the nature of the charge(s) against you and the options that are available to you is important to formulate a strategy to mitigate the consequences that so often interrupt the lives of individuals in these situations.
3. You may be put on probation.
Whether you are found guilty or if you participate in some sort of “first offender” program, it is important to understand that in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is a good possibility that you will be placed on probation and be subject to random drug screening. The length of time that you are placed on probation will often vary based on the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest, the specific charges you face, and whether or not you have a prior record, but a failure to successfully complete probation can lead to convictions, fines and jail. Often, probationary periods in Virginia for first offenders are supervised by private organizations who stand to financially benefit from your failure to successfully complete the probationary period. It is important to understand what is expected of you on probation and to understand the consequences of not fully complying with the terms and conditions of your probation.
When you’re facing any sort of criminal charges (including the possession of marijuana), your first step should be to avoid talking to the police until an attorney is present. An experienced lawyer will can properly advise you how best to deal with the situation and guide you through the process and help ensure that the case moves forward in a way that will be the most beneficial to you.