Richmond Drug Possession Charges
Drug possession is a very serious charge in the city of Richmond. It carries the possibility of jail and long term incarceration. It also comes with high fines and a license suspension that can be anywhere from six months to a year. In Richmond and throughout the rest of Virginia, drug possession charges are one of the most common types of drug offenses. If you have been charged with drug possession, a skilled Richmond drug lawyer can provide you with the representation you need.
Priority of Drug Possession for Police
Drug possession charges are a very high priority for law enforcement officers in Virginia. In particular, law enforcement officers are on the lookout for harder drugs or the drugs more associated with violence in the city. Drugs like crystal meth and crack cocaine are responsible for much of the City of Richmond’s violent past. Possession charges involving crack cocaine, crystal meth, or heroin are prosecuted very vigorously by law enforcement throughout the city. The factors that go into the seriousness of the charge are the amount of drug that is found, the type of the drug that is found, and whether the drugs are found near school or with a weapon. Harder drugs like Cocaine and Heroin are typically treated much more seriously than marijuana.
Alternative Sentencing Programs for First Time Offenders
The city of Richmond offers a number of alternative sentencing programs for first offender charges. There is the first offender program which requires some drug treatment, community service, license suspension, and if someone complies, then their charge would be dismissed.
There is also the Drug Court program which involves intensive treatment and monitoring with the benefit that if a person successfully completes the Court’s requirements, they may be able to avoid an active jail sentence and possibly get their charge reduced or dismissed.
Building a Defense For Drug Possession Charges
Building a defense on a possession charge is a multi-step process and first, involves examining the facts to determine if probable cause existed for a stop or search. In other words, was consent given or did the officer have enough reason to search your vehicle, to search your person or to search your property.
What attorneys also look at how the drugs were obtained and tested. These can involve issues with the chain of custody in the testing process of the State’s evidence. In addition, they want to explore what alternative sentencing options are available to avoid an active jail sentence and ideally keep the charge off of a person’s record.
Factors and Evidence That Bolsters a Defense
There are several factors in developing a defense to a possession case. An attorney can look to see how law enforcement obtained the drugs and if probable cause existed to conduct the search. The lawyer might also look to see where the drugs were located and if there is an argument to claim that the defendant was not in possession. In addition, they look to testing and certificate analysis done by the state to determine if there are issues with the chain of custody or problems with the results.
Potential Constitutional Issues in Richmond Drug Cases
The most common constitutional issues that arise in drug possession cases are Fourth Amendment issues. Fourth Amendment issues involve search and seizure and probable cause cases. These issues involve questions about whether an officer had enough reason or probable cause to pull someone over or search their property. In these cases, the attorney can challenge whether legal cause existed under the Fourth Amendment and if a search used to obtain evidence was legal.
Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Richmond Drug Cases
The biggest mistakes attorneys see in simple drug possession cases are when individuals attempt to handle their without an attorney, especially in marijuana cases. Individuals feel that since some states have legalized marijuana, the Court’s in Virginia will go easy on this issue. Unfortunately, this is incorrect, in Virginia possession of marijuana is still a class 1 misdemeanor which can come with an active jail sentence and automatic 6-month loss of license.
A lot of individuals also assume they have no defense if drugs were found on them. A lawyer’s job is to advise them not only of the possible defenses available under the law, but also the alternative sentencing that is available.
Contacting a Lawyer
It is very important to contact a drug possession lawyer immediately after charged and arrested. Drug charges can have a significant impact on your life both personally and professionally. The charges can result in a jail sentence, high fines, a long term license suspension, and a criminal conviction on your permanent record.
An attorney can assist in a number of ways on these types of cases. An attorney can build a solid defense, help you take steps to mitigate the punishments and negotiate with prosecutors in an attempt to reach a beneficial resolution. Also, an experienced attorney will have knowledge of what options are available regarding alternative sentencing.