For students who are still trying to get the education and training to have a bright future, it’s essential to have a VA student drug lawyer by your side to fight your charges. Controlled substances are regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia drug control act and under federal law under the Controlled Substances Act. Under Virginia law, “[i]t is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription.” In addition, Virginia law also prohibits manufacturing, selling, distributing, giving, or possessing with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute controlled substances.
Under Virginia law, controlled substances are divided into six different “schedules” or lists of substances. Schedule I includes drugs with a high potential for abuse with no medical use including heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Schedule II includes drugs with a high potential for abuse and dependence but that also has a medical use such as Cocaine and Amphetamines. Schedule III, IV and V drugs include drugs with progressively lower potential for abuse and addiction, and that can be used medically including some anabolic steroids. Schedule VI drugs include substances which are used or abused recreationally, such as amyl nitrite and nitrous oxide. Possession of a controlled substance can be a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the type of controlled substance and the amount.
Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance
Below are examples of some felony possession punishments:
- Possession of a Schedule I or II drug is punishable with one to 10 years in prison and a $2500 fine.
- Possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance of a Schedule I or II substance is punishable up to 40 years in jail. Multiple offenses can result in a sentence of life in jail and a $500,000 fine.
Misdemeanor Possession of a Controlled Substance
Below are examples of some felony possession punishments:
- Possession of a Schedule III drug is a Class 1 misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
- Possession of a Schedule IV drug is punishable with up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine.
- Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor and can result in up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500; a second conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.
- Possession with intent to distribute a Schedule III, IV or V substance is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.
Driving under the influence of a controlled substance:
- Driving while you are under the influence of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any other controlled substance is generally a misdemeanor unless you have committed the offense multiple times.
Violations of Federal law
Usually, students accused of violating drug laws are prosecuted under state law; however, in larger cases, and in particular where interstate sales occur, students may be prosecuted in federal court under federal law. Federal law sets penalties for first offenses of drug law violations ranging from one year to life imprisonment and/or $1,000 to $4 million in fines.
Risks to Students From Possession Charges
It’s important to have an assertive VA student drug lawyer who can protect students charged with violating drug laws. Although students are young and tend to lack the emotional maturity to fully understand the risks involved in using and possession drugs, they are still punished harshly for the violation of drug laws. As long as a student is 18 years old, they are treated the same as any non-student adult.
Students may feel that their lockers or other personal areas at school are private protected areas, but in reality, they are school property that can be searched by police. Moreover, given the amount of drug activity in certain schools and the risk to youths from being around drugs, police may target these areas, increasing the risk to students who violate these laws. Police can not only look for drugs at schools, some schools may also drug test students.
Violation of drug laws on school property will almost certainly lead to disciplinary action by the school if discovered. Some Virginia local school boards have established rules which require the expulsion of students who violate the Virginia drug control act. Even at private colleges, discipline administer can include counseling, classes/seminars, suspension, drug testing, mandatory community service, probation and possible expulsion. Moreover, in seeking admission to a college, students are required to report any previous discipline related to drugs, as well as any criminal cases involving drugs — even those that occurred when they were juveniles. Moreover, Virginia schools are required by law to notify the local law enforcement agency when any student has committed certain offenses, which opens the student up to criminal prosecution in addition to school disciplinary actions.
Furthermore, if students violate drug laws on or near a school, where students often tend to be, the law provides for harsher punishments. For example, federal law provides that any person who distributes, possesses with intent to distribute, or manufactures a controlled substance on or within 1,000 feet of an educational facility is subject to a doubling of the applicable maximum punishments and fines. Similarly, under Virginia law it is a felony to manufacture, sell, or distribute, or possess with intent to sell, give, or distribute at a public or private school or college. This is punishable by at least one year, not more than five years, and fined not more than $100,000.
Another devastating problem for students with drug-related criminal convictions is the loss or ineligibility for federal student loans. Effectively, this can deny students the ability to finish college, with no other means to pay tuition. Also, for students who still live with their parents in public housing, a drug-related conviction will mean that either they have to move out, or their family will face eviction. Other civil penalties facing students with drug convictions may include suspension of one’s driver’s license or forfeiture of property, including vehicles used to possess, transport, or conceal a controlled substance or denial of professional licenses (e.g., nursing license, teaching license, law license) so that they will never be able to engage in certain careers despite finishing school.
Your VA Student Drug Lawyer Can Help You Protect Your Future
Given that even a misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance for marijuana charges could result in having a criminal record — with a drug conviction affecting scholarships, school admissions and attendance, student loan and public housing eligibility, and your ability to get or maintain professional licenses — any drug conviction is a huge threat to the future of a VA student.
A VA Student Drug Lawyer Will Fight to Get Your Case Dismissed
By investigating the circumstances of your case and researching the laws unique to your situation, a VA student drug lawyer can develop legal theories to protect you.
Motions to Quash, Motions to Dismiss, and Motions to Suppress
- A VA student drug lawyer will fight to dismiss your case if the prosecutor does not have strong evidence. Drug tests conducted soon after arrests are often inaccurate, and unless proper scientific procedures are followed to test the drugs in a lab, the prosecutor should not be able to convict you.
- If the police or prosecutor violated your rights under the United States Constitution, your attorney can have evidence, statements, or identifications suppressed so that they cannot be used at trial. Usually, a prosecutor is then forced to dismiss the case since they no longer have any evidence to convince the jury to convict the defendant. A VA student drug lawyer can also work to dismiss your entire case if you were unlawfully arrested, the statute of limitations has expired, or your Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights are violated because you are not given your right to trial in a reasonable time, or you’re being prosecuted for a second time for the same offense.
Negotiation: Working With Prosecutors to Keep Your Record Clean
A VA student drug lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors about potential plea deals, alternative sentences including probation and community service which avoid jail time, and can protect your criminal record by dismissing the charge after probation is completed.
Litigation: Ready for Trial
We will hold the prosecution to their burden to prove that you are guilty and remind the jury that you are innocent until the prosecutor proves to them that you are a guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
We will search for helpful witnesses for you case, and if there are any, prepare them to testify.
We will cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses if we can undermine the credibility of the officers and other witnesses, and ask questions to help the jury to see holes in the prosecutor’s.
We will make sure the court, and the prosecutor, follows all the rules designed to protect defendants so that you get a fair trial.
Let a VA Student Drug Lawyer Protect You
Don’t let a drug-related conviction ruin your future. Let a VA student drug lawyer work for you to prevent a conviction or work for a more lenient sentence. Call Fisher Law Firm, P.C. at (540) 381-8750 today.