S & R Law Firm
Virginia has been cracking down on drug crimes for a long time, but the statistics behind drug-related arrests in our state suggest that the crackdown is intensifying. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of people arrested for drug distribution and possession increased by a whopping 38 percent. And if you look specifically at arrests tied to opioids, the number increased by more than 100 percent during that time period.
If you are among the many Virginians who have been swept up in this wave of arrests for drug distribution, you are likely under more stress than you have ever experienced. You’re facing severe potential penalties, and you probably don’t understand all the legal jargon that’s coming your way.
We understand what you’re going through. The Virginia drug distribution lawyers at S&R Law have helped countless people in your position. We have what it takes to help you, too. Contact S&R Law or read on to learn more.What is Drug Distribution?
In Virginia, distribution of a controlled substance is not the same thing as drug possession. In fact, it’s typically much more serious. Also, if you’re accused of “possession with intent to distribute,” you need to know up front that you might be facing much more severe potential penalties than you would for a standard possession charge.
The definition of drug distribution is relatively simple: It’s the act of distributing illegal drugs to someone else, whether that’s through a sale or even a gift. Possession with the intent to distribute is somewhat different — you can be charged with this crime even if you haven’t given drugs to anyone. This charge means you’re accused of having the intention of distributing drugs, and you allegedly had drugs in your possession or control.
Both charges can be extremely serious, and their potential penalties will depend in part on the classification of the drugs involved in the incident. Here are those classifications:
- Schedule I: Examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and LSD.
- Schedule II: Examples of Schedule II drugs include methamphetamine and cocaine, as well as hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and various other opioids.
- Schedule III: Examples of Schedule III drugs include ketamine, codeine, and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV: Examples of Schedule IV drugs include Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Tramadol.
- Schedule V: Examples of Schedule V drugs include combination drugs with smaller amounts of codeine, Lyrica, and Motofen.
As you might guess, law enforcement officials take Schedule I and II drugs the most seriously. These classes are considered harmful and thought to pose a high risk of abuse.Drug Distribution Charges in VA: Penalties
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-248, it is “... unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell, give, distribute, or possess with intent to manufacture, sell, give or distribute a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance.” Make no mistake — if you have been charged with drug distribution or possession with the intent to distribute, you are facing severe penalties if your charge becomes a conviction.
The following is a breakdown of the penalties you might face for a drug distribution conviction:Criminal Penalties for Drug Distribution
The criminal penalties for Virginia drug distribution charges are severe at best and absolutely devastating at worst. Particularly if you are convicted of drug distribution involving a Schedule I or II substance (such as opioids), you could face between five and 40 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines (Virginia Code § 18.2-248, Section C).
That’s for a first-time offense. If this is your second conviction for such a crime, your maximum term of imprisonment jumps up to life, and you could still be on the hook for fines up to $500,000. A third or subsequent conviction for drug distribution moves the minimum prison sentence up to 10 years, and the fine stays at a maximum of $500,000.
Distributing Schedule III, IV, and V substances can still come with severe potential penalties, but they are much less harsh than those for Schedule I and II violations (Virginia Code § 18.2-248, Section E):
- Schedule III: Up to a year in jail or one to 10 years in prison, as well as fines up to $2,500
- Schedule IV: Up to a year in jail or one to five years in prison, as well as fines up to $2,500
- Schedule V: Up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500
Keep in mind that several factors can lead to more severe punishments than those described above. For example, if you are charged with transporting a Schedule I or II substance into the state of Virginia, you could face fines up to $1 million and five to 40 years in prison.Other Consequences
Time behind bars and huge fines are usually enough motivation for the accused to contact an experienced drug distribution attorney, but there’s more to worry about. You also have to consider the non-criminal consequences of a conviction for distribution of a controlled substance in Virginia:
- Damage to your reputation
- Difficulty finding a job
- Being labeled a “felon”
- Trouble finding housing
- Having a professional license or title stripped from your name
Fortunately, a trusted drug distribution defense lawyer in Virginia can help you build a defense to avoid some or all of these penalties or reduce their severity.Building a Defense for a Drug Distribution Charge
Police and prosecutors would love for you to believe that they have you dead to rights — that there’s no way to defend against this charge. Of course they would; that would make their job so much easier. The good news is that there is a way to defend against most drug distribution charges.
The best defense for your particular drug distribution charge will depend on the exact details of your case. A Virginia drug distribution attorney can help you build a bulletproof defense uniquely designed for your case. However, it’s often helpful to understand some of the common types of defenses that could apply to your case:
- You never intended to sell or give away the controlled substance in question.
- The evidence against you did not follow the proper chain of custody.
- You were a victim of entrapment.
- You have a prescription for the drugs (if you’re accused of intending to distribute prescription opioids).
- The police violated your Fourth Amendment right to be protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
- You weren’t actually in possession of the controlled substance.
Again, your defense must be specific to your case, but the above defenses against drug distribution charges often apply to situations like yours.Reach Out to a Drug Distribution Defense Attorney
When you’re charged with drug distribution in Virginia, it feels like your life is over. But it isn’t. You still have a chance to fight your charge. With the right legal team on your side, you can set yourself up to have the best possible chance of getting your life back.
The team at S&R Law works hard every day to be the legal ally that can help you in this difficult time. We know what you’re up against, and we know how to beat it. Ready to learn more? Claim your free consultation with a Virginia drug distribution lawyer today. Call 703.273.6431 or contact us online.