The penalties for possessing controlled substances are notoriously harsh in Virginia, and individuals found with even small amounts of marijuana for a second time face up to a year in jail. The sentences handed down to those convicted of possessing more dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and heroin are even more severe. Prosecutors in Virginia may also charge alleged drug offenders with distributing narcotics when police discover quantities of controlled substances that would lead to a simple possession charge in other parts of the country.
Controlled substance schedules
The penalties handed down in Virginia for drug possession vary greatly depending on the type of substance involved. The controlled substance schedules in Virginia are:
- Schedule I controlled substances have no medical use and are considered highly addictive. LSD and heroin fall into this classification.
- Schedule II controlled substances are addictive but have accepted medical uses. Cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP and methadone are Schedule II controlled substances in Virginia.
- Schedule III controlled substances have medical uses and are less addictive than Schedule II controlled substances. They include codeine and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV controlled substances have legitimate medical uses and taking them is not likely to lead to addiction. This category includes many common prescription or over-the-counter drugs like Xanax and Valium.
- Schedule V controlled substances include medications containing codeine that do not usually lead to dependency.
- Schedule VI controlled substances are substances that are not usually considered drugs but may be abused, like paint or glue.
Drug possession penalties
Individuals convicted of possessing drugs face penalties including jail time, fines, community service and supervised release. They may also be ordered to attend substance abuse counseling. Fines begin at up to $250 for possessing a Schedule VI controlled substance and rise to up to $2,500 for possessing drugs like cocaine or heroin, and jail sentences range from up to six months for possessing Schedule IV controlled substances to as long as 10 years for possessing Schedule I controlled substances. During plea negotiations with criminal defense attorneys. prosecutors may agree to reduce these penalties in return for a guilty plea.
Marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, but this classification would make no sense in states like Virginia that have passed laws allowing the drug to be taken for medical purposes. For this reason, lawmakers in Virginia have placed marijuana in a separate category. Possessing less than half an ounce of the drug carries a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offender and a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail for repeat offenders. Possessing larger amounts of marijuana will usually lead to a charge of possession with the intent to distribute.