As states around the country take steps to decriminalize marijuana use and possession, it’s disheartening to see Virginia moving backward in this regard.
The 2022 Virginia budget contained several provisions recriminalizing certain marijuana-related offenses. While the penalty for possessing more than one ounce and up to one pound of marijuana in public was a $25 civil fine, the new laws make possessing larger amounts of marijuana a more severe offense.
New Marijuana Offenses in Virginia
Virginia legalized marijuana possession in 2021, allowing adults over 21 to possess up to one ounce of the drug for personal use. According to the Code of Virginia, possessing up to four ounces of marijuana is still a civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine. However, the 2022 budget significantly changed the penalties for possessing more significant amounts of marijuana.
Under the new laws, possessing more than four ounces but less than one pound of marijuana is now a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. A second offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine, or both. Possessing more than one pound of marijuana in Virginia remains a felony, with penalties including up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Possible Defenses to Marijuana Possession Charges
Given the recent changes to Virginia’s marijuana laws, more people are likely to face criminal charges for drug possession. If you face charges in Virginia of misdemeanor or felony marijuana possession, here are some common defense strategies you and your attorney might use:
- Questioning the Legality of the Search: If law enforcement didn’t follow the correct procedures when searching your person, vehicle, or home, any evidence they found might be thrown out.
- Misidentification of the Substance: Not everything that looks like marijuana is marijuana, as many legal substances can be mistaken for it. Ensuring accurate testing and challenging any assumptions can be a strong defense.
- Constructive Possession: Just because police find marijuana in a place you can access, like your car or home, that doesn’t mean it belongs to you. Prosecutors must prove you had knowledge of the substance and control over its presence.
- Entrapment: This is when law enforcement persuades you to commit a crime you wouldn’t have otherwise committed. If you believe you were set up or pressured into possessing marijuana, this defense could prove beneficial.
- Chain of Custody Issues: From the moment the evidence is collected to when it’s presented in court, it must be handled appropriately and documented. Any mishandling or gaps in the chain of custody can be used to challenge the authenticity and reliability of the evidence.
Facing Marijuana Possession Charges in Virginia Beach? Pincus Goodman Can Help
As Virginia’s marijuana laws evolve, hiring the right defense attorney has become even more crucial. Here’s how a criminal defense attorney from Pincus Goodman, P.C., can help if you face marijuana possession charges in Virginia Beach:
- Knowledge of Current Laws: Our attorneys keep up to date with the nuances of state legislation and understand how to apply them to your specific situation. In the realm of marijuana laws, this knowledge is paramount.
- Evaluate the Strength of Your Case: Before heading to court, it’s essential to know where you stand. An attorney can assess the evidence against you, identify weak points in the prosecution’s arguments, and determine the best defense strategies.
- Negotiate on Your Behalf: Sometimes, the best path forward is a plea deal. An experienced attorney can negotiate terms that might reduce your penalties or even have charges dropped in certain situations.
- Protect Your Rights: From ensuring you’re treated fairly during the arrest to guaranteeing a fair trial, an attorney is there to ensure that your rights are upheld at every stage of the legal process.
The implications of a marijuana possession charge in Virginia Beach can be daunting, but you don’t have to face them alone. The Virginia Beach criminal defense attorneys at Pincus Goodman, P.C., can help you weather this storm and pursue the best possible outcome in your case. Call (757) 301-9634 today or reach out online for a confidential case review.