Virginia Marijuana Possession FAQ
Marijuana Possession: Frequently Asked Questions
Answered by Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Brenton D. Vincenzes
Marijuana Possession in Virginia FAQ
Is Possession of Marijuana a Serious Offense in Virginia?
Although marijuana use for medical purposes is becoming increasingly common and/or decriminalized in many U.S. states, it remains illegal in Virginia. Some first time offenders are surprised to learn the of the consequences, even for a first-offense and for a relatively small amount. Any amount, if charged with a first possession offense, can result in:
- up to 30 days in jail
- a substantial fine
- a six-month suspended license
- a criminal record
Does the Code of Virginia Directly Cover Possession of Marijuana?
Virginia Code § 18.2-250.1. _ Possession of marijuana unlawful_. Section A tells us a lot about this particular law, including:
- The “state of mind" required to be convicted;
- The status of medical marijuana in Virginia;
- Whether or not a presumption of knowing possession arises in cases of contraband (i.e., marijuana) found in one's home or vehicle; and, much more...
Read the following answers to find out Virginia’s treatment of the above legal issues.
Can I be Convicted if I did not Know Marijuana was "in My Possession?"
If you were unaware that the marijuana was in your possession… (e.g., in your pockets, backpack, vehicle, etc…), you may not be in violation of the law. This is due to the fact that the relevant law ells us that it is unlawful to “knowingly or intentionally" possess marijuana.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Virginia?
There seems to be a medical exception:
“[It is unlawful to knowingly/intentionally possession marijuana]…unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.)"
With this in mind, the Commonwealth of Virginia is not considered a “marijuana-friendly" state. While many states in the U.S. are moving toward decriminalization or broad medical marijuana exceptions, residents of Virginia and particularly visitors from more marijuana-friendly states should keep in mind the very limited scope of the above language. To the best of my knowledge as a practicing Virginia criminal lawyer, no doctors prescribe medical marijuana in the Commonwealth.
If I am found guilty of possession of Marijuana, what penalties do I face?
Violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-250 (Marijuana Possession Code Section) is listed as “a misdemeanor." However, for a subsequent offense, the statute states that the offense is a “Class 1 misdemeanor." The potential consequences, if convicted, include: jail for up to 30 days, and/or a fine of up to $500.
A subsequent offense, however, is punishable by (Class 1 misdemeanor standards):
- up to a year in jail;
- a fine up to $2,500; and
- loss of driving privileges.
Other consequences are possible, such as loss of employment and difficulty finding a job. Additionally, even if the toughest Class 1 misdemeanor penalties are not imposed, one may be ordered to attend drug addiction screening; submit to urine tests (randomly); perform hours of community service; and, participate in a drug program. Moreover, the costs of these programs are paid by the defendant.
What if Marijuana was Found in My Car (to my surprise)?
The Code Section (18.2-250.1 part A) reads in part,
“…Upon the prosecution of a person for violation of this section, ownership or occupancy of the premises or vehicle upon or in which marijuana was found shall not create a presumption that such person either knowingly or intentionally possessed such marijuana."
This tells us that just because the marijuana was found in your vehicle, there must be additional evidence that it belonged to you…it does not create a presumption.
Can a First Time Offender Receive Jail Time?
It is possible. One may receive probation instead of jail time if charged with possession of marijuana under Virginia Code section 18.2-250.
According to Code Section 18.2-251, a first-time offender may be placed on probation as part of the “terms and conditions" to defer further proceedings. Drug tests may be required, among others listed in the statute.
Vincenzes Law, PLLC, is a criminal defense firm in Fairfax, Virginia. Brenton D. Vincenzes is a criminal defense attorney who offers free consultations (with no set time limit), flat fee quotations (as opposed to hourly billing), and several generous discounts. If your charge arises in an area outside of Northern Virginia, please speak with an attorney near you. If you were charged as a result of actions in Fairfax County, Spotsylvania County, Arlington County, Prince William County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Manassas, or the City of Fredericksburg, ask for a free case evaluation. Vincenzes Law offers free case evaluations by email, or in-person.
Disclaimer:This guide is not legal advice. It is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Do not rely on anything you read on the internet, regardless of the source. If faced with a criminal accusation, investigation, or charge, please consult a licensed attorney with criminal law experience.