Facing drug charges in Richmond, Virginia can be extremely upsetting, especially if the charges you are facing could result in jail time. There are many different kinds of drug possession and distribution offenses at the state and federal levels, and many different kinds of people face drug charges. In some cases, drug charges arise for individuals with prior offenses, but even college students in the Richmond area can face charges for marijuana possession or possession with intent to distribute.
Whether a person is facing federal or state drug charges, it is extremely important to have an experienced Richmond drug crimes defense lawyer who can tailor a defense strategy to the specific facts of your case.
Distinction Between Federal and State Drug Charges
What is the difference between federal and state drug charges, and when should a person anticipate federal charges instead of Virginia state charges? In short, there are many situations in which a crime may be charged either at the state or federal level. Whether a person faces federal or state drug charges depends on numerous factors, such as:
- Whether a federal or state law enforcement official made the arrest (if a person was arrested by a federal officer, the crime likely will be federal, and if the person was arrested by a Virginia state law enforcement official, the crime likely is being charged under state law); oftentimes law enforcement officers who are employed by the state are also members of a federal task force. In these situations, there are often meetings between state and federal officials to determine whether the charges should be brought in state court or in federal court.
- Whether the crime involved the crossing of state lines (once a person crosses state lines in the act of committing a drug offense—even simply crossing state lines with the substance—then the crime can be federal); the possession of certain controlled substances is a federal crime as well as a state crime
- Whether informants who are working for a federal task force or federal agent were involved in the case (in such cases where a federal informant provides details that lead to the arrest, the case can be federal); and/or
- Whether the drug offense occurred on federal property such as Fort Lee or Fort Pickett or in a federal building.
For many drug offenses, federal penalties are significantly more severe.
Federal Drug Crimes and the Controlled Substances Act
Most drug possession and drug distribution (or possession with intent to distribute) offenses are charged under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA places drugs into five different categories that range from Schedule I drugs (such as marijuana or heroin) to Schedule V drugs. Many drug possession and distribution charges involve Schedule I substances, but those offenses frequently include Schedule II drugs, as well. Examples of Schedule II drugs include, for example, methamphetamine, morphine, and certain other drugs that may be legal with a valid prescription.
Virginia State Drug Possession and Distribution Offenses
Various Virginia state laws govern drug crimes, including possession and possession with intent to distribute. For example:
- Under Virginia Code § 18.2-250, possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance is classified as a Class 5 felony and can result in up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Possession of marijuana in an amount less than one-half ounce typically is charged as a misdemeanor offense that can result in up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Nevertheless under certain conditions a defendant charged with the felony of simple possession of a controlled substance can have their case dismissed even if there are no legal defenses if it qualifies under the first offender statute.
- Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248, it is unlawful to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess with intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance. The penalty for possession with intent to distribute can range from a misdemeanor to felony offense depending upon the type of drug and the amount. The statutory range if convicted of Distribution of Cocaine or Heroin is 5-40 years in Virginia so it is imperative to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process.
Contact a Richmond Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
If you are facing drug crimes charges, whether as a first-time offender or repeat offender, a drug crimes defense lawyer in Richmond can help. Contact Ali J. Amirshahi Attorney at Law for more information.