What you need to know about the 2020 changes to Fairfax County’s handling of marijuana possession cases.
Ever since the news broke that the new Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney announced that his office would no longer be prosecuting possession of marijuana cases, our office has been inundated by the following questions:
Is Fairfax dropping all marijuana cases?
Do I still need an attorney if I was charged with possession in Fairfax? (YES)
Is marijuana legal in Fairfax now?
Unfortunately, the answers to some of these are not straight-forward (though others are).
First, “Is Fairfax dropping all marijuana possession cases?” – the answer is….kinda. Yeah, I know, not the clear-cut answer that you came here for. Let me explain.
The Commonwealth’s office (the prosecutors) are trying to not prosecute simple marijuana possession cases in Fairfax County. The judges, however, are making this difficult. Possession of marijuana is still illegal in every county in Virginia. As far as the judges are concerned, that means that the prosecutors do not have the authority to drop these charges in every case. Fairfax police officers are still writing tickets and conducting arrests for possession of marijuana cases, so those cases still need to be prosecuted. This results in a complicated process where the judge is far more involved in the outcome of marijuana cases than was ever the situation before. Now the judges want an explanation as to why the charge should be dropped against the defendant – even when the prosecutor doesn’t want to pursue the charges any more.
This is where experienced criminal defense attorneys come in. We are being put in a situation where we have to explain to the judge steps that our clients took prior to court (at our direction), the facts of the case that help our client (small amount of marijuana for personal use, for example), and our client’s otherwise clean criminal record.
A Fairfax marijuana possession attorney can get the marijuana charges dropped in Fairfax. But when you’re not represented by an attorney, the situation becomes a lot more difficult because now you have to discuss your case with both the prosecutor and the judge. Often the cases get continued for several weeks to allow the defendant to take steps to satisfy the judge’s demands.
It should not be this complicated, but unfortunately it is.
“Do I still need an attorney for possession of marijuana cases in Fairfax?” – I think at this point, my answer is clear – YES! If you want your charge dropped, you’re going to need an attorney to help you along in the process of defending the prosecutor’s decision with the judge. Court rooms are confusion, intimidating, and it’s only made more so by the judge taking over how prosecutions are handled.
But the million dollar question – “Is marijuana legal in Fairfax County now?” – ABSOLUTELY NOT! Officers are still charging people with possession of marijuana every single day in Fairfax. Don’t think what you’ve read or heard recently has changed the legality of marijuana. The only thing that has changed is the court process of dealing with marijuana charges – which, unfortunately, is just a lot more complicated now.