Prince William County Drug Penalties
In Prince William County, the laws are not necessarily harsh against drug crimes. They depend on many different factors, such as the type of drug and the way it was being possessed by the people at the time that the drugs were recovered. There is a wide variation of severity in the total set of laws contained in the Virginia criminal drug code.
The Prince William County drug penalties a person could expect if found guilty of a drug-related charge vary. Drug charges probably have the most wide-ranging classifications of any area in Virginia law. Depending on the substance, drug charges could range from the lowest level misdemeanors that carry no jail time to felonies carrying life in prison as either a minimum or maximum potential penalty with fines up to $1,000,000. Due to the severity of these penalties, it is important that an individual seek the services of a qualified drug attorney that could mitigate the consequences. If an individual faces drug penalties, they should speak with a capable drug lawyer that could help.
How First Time Charges Are Treated
An example of how a first time drug charge would be treated compared to the treatment of a repeat offense would be marijuana cases. If someone is charged with a first offense and has never been convicted of a drug crime before or enrolled in the drug first offender program, the person is eligible to have the charge dismissed through Virginia’s statutory first offender drug program. If the person was not in operation of a motor vehicle at the time of possessing the drug, the person could even potentially avoid any license suspension.
If the person is unsuccessful in the program or does not wish to take the program, the person could only receive a maximum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of a $500 fine. If a person is charged with a second or subsequent offense, they would be ineligible for the first offender program and they could be punished by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Their license or driving privileges in Virginia would also be suspended for six months.
Difference in Severity of Penalties Between a First and Repeat Offense
The severity of potential Prince William County drug penalties could change between the first time and repeat offenses, because first time offenses are almost always less severe than repeat offenses if not by law then by practice. First offenses are also easier to negotiate into a less severe offense, such as possession of drug paraphernalia. Some first offenses qualify for the first offender program, whereas a repeat offense would never qualify for such programs. The only time a repeat offense might be less severe than a first offense is if the repeat offense involves a completely different drug that is less serious in nature than the first offense on one’s record. The period of mandatory license suspension would always be the same no matter the sequence of the drug offense if convicted.
Factors That Influence the Severity of a Penalty
The standard factors that could influence how harsh a drug penalty is in Prince William County, include the drug quantity and schedule classification as well as the type of drug charge, the circumstances of its alleged condition, and the accused’s prior criminal history. Additional factors may be influential as well, depending on the aspects of the individual case.
The schedule classification of the drug directly determines the level of the actual charge and is one of the most important factors influencing the formal and informal potential Prince William County drug penalties of the charge.
The way in which a crime is committed is always of fundamental significance for the potential penalty. If the crime affected multiple people or involved heightened safety risks such as firearms, car accidents, or overdoses, it would increase the likely penalty. Additionally, if the crime involved deceit or profit on the part of the accused, or required a lot of response resources from law enforcement such as lengthy investigations and emergency medical response teams, it would probably increase the associated penalty.
Criminal history generally increases penalties in all criminal cases unless they are old or unrelated in nature. Drug cases involve strict attention to criminal histories that include prior drug offenses, because they show that the prior punishment imposed on the offender was not sufficiently severe. The Virginia criminal code contains specific and substantial penalty enhancements for repeat offenses which vary on the nature of the repeat offense.
The location of crime could also affect the associated penalty. If the crime is committed in an area that law enforcement consider to be a high crime drug area, the court might see extra policy significance and sentence the offender more harshly as a means of deterring local community drug activity. Additionally, if the crime is committed inside of the vehicle, it is usually more serious than in a stationary context like a house. Finally, if the crime was committed in a place where others, particularly vulnerable people like children or the elderly have access to the drugs, that formally and informally increase the penalty.
There are diversion programs or alternative sentencing for first time drug offenders for first time simple possession offenses and prescription drug offenses, but not for possession with intent to distribute offenses or actual distribution offenses. Distribution involves the gifting, manufacturing transporting, or selling of prohibited drugs.
A person could become more familiar with potential Prince William County drug penalties by consulting with a lawyer about their particular charges and relevant criminal drug histories, if any.
How a Prince William County Drug Attorney Could Help
An attorney could help lessen Prince William County drug penalties by seeking to completely or partially dispute the elements of the crime as charged, or by negotiating with the prosecution for a reduction or dismissal of the charge. A defense attorney could also help lessen the penalties by building strong or creative mitigation strategies for sentencing if a person is convicted of the crime, such as going to a drug treatment program instead of incarceration.