Possession of a Controlled Substance (Non-Marijuana)
Va. Code § 18.2-250 makes it illegal to possess any controlled substance without a valid prescription.
The vast majority of street drugs are Schedule I/II drugs. Prescription drugs that are used recreationally are Schedule II, III, IV and V. Schedule VI drugs include all remaining prescription drugs that are not in one of the other schedules. Schedule VI drugs are generally prescription drugs that have no recreational value.
Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance
Va. Code § 18.2-248 creates a special felony for possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.
There are several ways the police attempt to prove possession with intent to distribute (PWID): undercover drug buys, confessions, text messages from the defendant’s phone, the quantity of drugs (more than the amount typical for personal use), possession of scales, individually packaged drugs, and possession of lots of cash.
The punishments for PWID non-marijuana increase as the quantity of drug in the defendant’s possession increases. However, there is no minimum quantity for PWID-non-marijuana. An officer can charge someone if they share one hit on a crack pipe or pass around a needle.
PWID Schedule I,II, III, and IV drugs is a felony. PWID Schedule I/II drugs comes with up to 40 years in prison for the first offense and life in prison for the second offense with a mandatory minimum of three years. For the third offense, PWID Schedule I/II comes with a maximum of life in prison and a minimum of 10 years. Possession with intent to distribute is always a very serious crime.
PWID Near a School
Va Code § 18.2-255.2 bans PWID near schools, day care centers, school bus stops, and many other public locations. This law applies even if the defendant was not intending to distribute the drugs on school property.
For instance: if a defendant drives through a school zone while dropping some pills off at his friend’s house, he has violated this statute.
There is a long list of locations where this statute applies: any public property within 1,000 feet of any school, including colleges and junior colleges, school bus stops (if children are present), day care centers, recreation centers, public libraries, community centers, and any public property within 1,000 feet of a state hospital or health facility.
To charge an individual with PWID, the police must prove the intent to distribute the drugs. The most common ways the police prove distribution is through text messages, voice mail messages, police stings, undercover informants, and statements by the defendant.
Possessing scales, several small individually wrapped quantities of drugs, large amounts of cash in small bills, and hanging out in a high drug-crime area can also be used as evidence to suggest distribution.
However, it is important to remember that the government must prove that the defendant intended to distribute the specific drugs he possessed at the time.
For example, if the police catch a suspect with .6 ounces of cocaine and a text message offering to sell 10 ecstasy pills, that may not be enough to prove PWID .6 ounces of cocaine.
Also, if a suspect is caught with .2 ounces of cocaine and a text message from a week ago offering to sell some cocaine, that text message may be too old to prove that the suspect possessed the .2 ounces with the intent to distribute.
Luke J. Nichols
Nichols & Green pllc