Manassas Marijuana Possession Charges

Although the past few years have seen marijuana legalization in states around the country, including the District of Columbia, it has not been legalized in Virginia; that is something that people visiting the area should very much keep in mind. Virginia law enforcement officials will not go easier on someone facing a marijuana charge just because it has been legalized in neighboring jurisdictions. For this reason it is also imperative you consult with a Manassas drug lawyer if charged as your case will be treated very seriously by all parties involved.

Marijuana Drug Charges in Manassas v. Other Substances

Manassas prosecutes all drug possession cases quite vigorously, but the law treats marijuana a little bit differently than other types of drugs.  Marijuana possession is a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony. This is unusual because marijuana is technically classified under Schedule I, which makes it the one exception to the general rule that everything in Schedule I and II is a felony.

The possession of marijuana also has its own set of sections in the Code of Virginia that set it apart from other types of drugs. If a person is ultimately found guilty of possession of marijuana or if the judge finds that the facts are sufficient for a finding of guilt, they get a 251 disposition that looks a lot different from the result they would get if it was a felony possession.

Impact of Legalization In Neighboring Jurisdictions

The law of Virginia is the law of Virginia. Once you cross that river and come in to the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are not in Kansas anymore.  You are not in D.C. or Maryland and just because it is legalized close by does not mean that it is legalized here. Nothing changes until Virginia falls in line with other states, and frankly, that is unlikely to happen any time soon. If there is a nationwide trend of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, even if the rest of the nation decides to legalize marijuana, that does not mean Virginia will; it also does not mean that laws from other states will transfer over to Virginia.

Unique Aspects of Defending Manassas Marijuana Charges

One of the biggest challenge when defending marijuana cases as opposed to other kinds of cases is that marijuana has a very distinct and strong odor about it. When the police come up on a vehicle for a routine traffic stop, very often the thing which triggers their investigation into the possible possession of marijuana is just simply the smell. They said they could smell it and even if it was smoked a long time ago. The odor of marijuana lingers longer than people think it does.

With regards to the odor issue, police officers frequently challenge people in court by saying, “Well, I smelled marijuana.” In some instances that is enough to trigger a further investigation. Most drugs do not have that kind of distinctive odor. As a result, police are not as easily capable of taking the investigation to the next step due to smell alone.

Is There More Leniency From the Court if it’s Marijuana?

There is never any leniency from a Virginia judge because it is marijuana.  The judge does not care about comparisons between marijuana and legal substances.  The simple fact is it is still illegal in Virginia and it is going to stay that way for some time, so the judge only cares about following the law.

As for juries, the answer depends on where we are on the proceeding.  If we are talking about a jury determining whether or not a person is guilty or innocent,  that the jury is going to be instructed they have to follow the law. They will have taken an oath to follow the law so do not anticipate a lot of leniency if we have a marijuana-possession case in front of a jury.  Where you might get leniency is in sentencing. Juries do recommend sentences here in Virginia.  So if you are found guilty by a jury of possessing marijuana, jurors may treat you with kid gloves, considering the nationwide trend toward decriminalization.

Implications of a Marijuana Possession Charge

It depends on how many times you have been caught with the drug.  If it is your first marijuana possession offense, then you should have very minimal long-term implications if you are properly represented by legal counsel and are able to get the 251 disposition.

A 251 disposition essentially means you go through a period of probation and ultimately have the charge against you dismissed without a conviction.  If you have already used up your eligibility for that or if the court deems you ineligible, then you will have a conviction on your record. Even though it is only marijuana, it still is a criminal offense. If it is a misdemeanor or conviction, you face possible jail time.  Serving jail time can be a stain on your record for years to come.

What To Know About Marijuana Possession in Manassas

The thing people need to know is if it is your first offense, you are eligible in almost every case for a diversion program. Manassas handles it a little bit differently than other jurisdictions.  They have the Local Offenders Program (LOP) or probation, which is handled within the Prince William County system. They will monitor your performance throughout this probationary period.

Other jurisdictions do not have something quite like this and so that sets Manassas apart from other jurisdictions.  Another thing that people need to know is if you already have been convicted of marijuana possession, you are not going to get any kind of favorable treatment. In almost every case, they will be actively seeking a conviction. You also face the possibility of jail time.