Possession of Marijuana Defense
Possession of Marijuana is illegal in Virginia pursuant to VA Code 18.2-250.1. Under the statute, possession must be proven to have been “knowing” or “intentional.” This requirement is one of the first aspects of your case that we will directly address at Ervin Kibria. These possession requirements mean that the government must prove that you either knew about the marijuana or that you intended to have marijuana in your possession, and that it wasn’t unintentional. Sometimes, this can be significant burden for the prosecution. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was (1) aware of the presence and (2) character of the drug, and (3) that the defendant possessed it. This issue of “possession” is critical – mere presence near or in the proximity of marijuana is not enough to establish a person’s possession of the drug.
Often times, the prosecution is forced to resort to “constructive possession” of the marijuana. In a constructive possession argument, the prosecution will offer circumstantial evidence concerning acts, statements, or conduct of the defendant that could lead the judge or jury to believe that the defendant was both aware of the presence of the marijuana and experience dominion over it. However, having an experienced marijuana defense attorney can make it very difficult for the prosecution to prove that the defendant possessed – actually or constructively – the marijuana.
Penalties For a First Offense of Possession of Marijuana:
- Misdemeanor conviction
- Up to 30 days in jail
- $500 fine
- 6 months lost of driver’s license (even if you were not driving at the time of your arrest).
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID)
Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute is illegal under VA Code 18.2-248.1. There a number of factors that are considered by both the arresting officer and the Commonwealth’s Attorney assigned to the case in determining whether to charge the defendant with simple possession of marijuana or with possession with intent to distribute.
- Packaging – splitting up portion of marijuana (or any illicit drug for that matter) in plastic bags is an indication that the defendant was intending to distribute the drug.
- Scales and other equipment – if the officers find equipment used for measuring out allotments of marijuana or any other drug, it is very likely that you will be charged with PWID.
- Quantity – the amount of marijuana that you have in your possession is also a very strong indictor of your intent. Generally a small amount is considered to be for personal consumption and will be treated as simple possession. A large amount, however, is another indicator that you were intending to distribute the marijuana, rather than just use it individually.
- Defendant’s Behavior – the officer will provide testimony as to to the defendant’s statements or behavior, which could signal that the defendant intended to distribute the marijuana.
- Money – having a large amount of money present at the same time that marijuana (or any other drug) is discovered will immediately raise red flags concerning whether there was an intent to distribute the drug. This generally suggests profits of previous sales of marijuana.
Penalties for Possession of Marijuana With Intent to Distribute (PWID):
- Class 1 Misdemeanor Conviction
- Up to 12 months jail
- Up to $2,500 fine
- Loss of driver’s license
- Violations with more than 1/2 ounce of marijuana, but less than 5 pounds is a class 5 felony and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- Violations with more than five pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by 5 to 30 years in prison.