Common Drug Offenses in Virginia

Drug laws in Virginia prohibit possession and distribution of any illegal drug. Distribution of prescription drugs that are not prescribed to the person to whom it is being distributed is also a crime. The Commonwealth takes these cases very seriously. Therefore it is important that you hire an experienced Virginia drug lawyer should you find yourself faced with these charges. Having a qualified attorney by your side will ensure that you are able to build the strongest defense possible.

Common Offenses

Possession of marijuana is and will most likely remain the most commonly charged drug crime in Virginia. A typical situation in which someone is charged with possession of marijuana is when a driver is pulled over for an unrelated traffic offense, and the officer discovers the substance in the car. The second most common charge is the distribution of marijuana. The vast majority of drug distribution charges occur when a confidential informant or an undercover police officer is part of a buy.

Beyond marijuana, possession of more serious drugs tends to be the most commonly seen citation. There has been a tremendous uptake in possession and distribution of heroin lately in Virginia, which is in keeping with the national trend.

Different Types of Possession

There are two different types of possession: actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession is when someone has something on their person, for example in their hand or their pocket, so it is clear that they know they have it in their possession. Constructive possession is more difficult for the Commonwealth to prove and is more nuanced in terms of the law.

Constructive possession applies when the accused does not actually, physically have the drug on their person. It is analogous to a situation where someone owns a car–in legal terms, “exercises dominion and control over”–, but is not currently occupying the vehicle. In a constructive possession drug case, the question in court is whether or not the person had knowledge of the substance and whether they were exercising the dominion and control over the substance.

Being in a vehicle with an illicit substance or being near an illicit substance is not enough is not enough for the prosecution to ensure a conviction. The burden of proof rests on the prosecuting attorney to show knowledge of, and dominion and control over, the substance. For instance, if someone was pulled over by an officer who then found an illegal substance in the car, the state would have to prove to the court both that the defendant knew the substance was in the vehicle, and that they were exercising dominion and control over it.  

Abuse of Prescription Medication

There are many cases where people become addicted to opioid painkillers and go to extraordinary means to continue their intake after the original prescription has expired. The legal system tends to favor punishment over treatment in cases like that.

When a case involves a client who has become addicted to a prescription medication but whose prescription has ended, the first step is to  get them the help they need. This proactive approach not only benefits the life of the client but demonstrates to the court that the defendant is willing and able to follow through on their desire to fix the problem. Proactiveness in a drug case is a critical element of mitigation because it shows the court and the prosecutor that the accused is making a legitimate effort to ensure they do not revert to the harmful behavior in question.


Anyone charged with a drug crime ought to be intimidated by the charges because, if found guilty, the conviction will remain permanently on their record. Any potential employer or school that the person may apply to has the ability to review their criminal record, which can adversely affect their application, position, or standing.

How An Attorney Can Help

A person facing charges in Virginia should contact an attorney right away. An attorney can help lay out the possibilities and probabilities of different outcomes, as well as help build a strong defense by recommending work that can be done to mitigate the situation while defending your Constitutional rights. Having an experienced attorney by your side will help ensure that your rights are protected, that you are aware of every available means to achieve the best outcome possible, and that you have a guide when making decisions every step of the way.