Virginia Law allows for dismissal of a first offense possession of marijuana charge if the person charged successfully completes a first offender treatment program. To be eligible for this program, the person charged can not have any prior drug convictions or any prior dismissals after completing a similar program. Prior criminal offenses do not automatically disqualify you but they can be a factor the judge considers when deciding to give you this discretionary disposition.
If given the benefit of a first offender disposition, the judge will defer a finding of guilt for 1 year. He or she will order you to enroll in and successfully complete a substance abuse assessment and follow any and all recommended treatment. The judge will also require the person charged to complete 24 hours of community service, pay the costs of the proceeding, and suspend their license for 6 months.
Fairfax County - 2J Docket - Interview
In Fairfax County, all possession of marijuana cases are heard in courtroom 2J. When the judge begins to call the docket, he or she will often call the people whose cases are up for review at the conclusion of several different first offender programs. This gives the individuals present an opportunity to see the cases dismissed after successful completion of the program. After calling those cases, the judge will call the individuals who are eligible for first offender treatment and ask if they want to be interviewed for the program.
People who choose to be interviewed for the program will go with a VASAP representative to a conference room where the VASAP representative will explain the program in detail and verify the person's eligibility. If you are found eligible and want to participate, you will be given a form that informs the judge that you want to enroll in the program.
Enrolling in the Program involves a Plea of Guilty or No Contest
What is not always evident to those that decide to take advantage of the program is that they are either entering a plea of guilty or no contest. Upon entering this plea, the judge does not enter a finding of guilt - rather, he or she defers a finding for 1 year based on the terms outlined in Section 1. If successful the case is dismissed; however, if you are unsuccessful, you will be found guilty and sentenced accordingly.
It is important to understand that the judge will find that the facts are sufficient for a finding of guilty. This finding is important because a dismissal pursuant to this section means that the charge is not eligible for an expungement under Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2. Furthermore, if you are not a U.S. Citizen, you should consult an immigration attorney before proceeding with this disposition because it is possible that a dismissal under this law section could be seen as a conviction for immigration purposes.
In Fairfax County, everyone who gets the benefit of this disposition is required to enroll in and successfully complete the VASAP program. The VASAP program is the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program and a special program has been designed to address drug rehabilitation, education, and treatment specifically for these types of dispositions.
Unlike other jurisdictions that may merely do a substance abuse evaluation, Fairfax County requires everyone to undergo first offender treatment through VASAP.
License Suspension is Mandatory
Virginia law requires that a person's license be suspended for six months whenever he or she is convicted of a drug offense or given the benefit of first offender treatment. You may be eligible to request a restricted license to permit you to drive to and from work and school, during work hours, for issues pertaining to your children, and for medical purposes. This too is discretionary and the judge does not have to permit you to drive at all.
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