Debunking Non-Violent Drug Crime Myth

Debunking Non-Violent Drug Crime Myth

Drug Lawyer in Fairfax Virginia


If I had a nickel for every time I heard a politician or a political activist say, “There are thousands of people in prison for Possession of Drugs or Possession of Marijuana,” I would be able to buy a Bugatti Chiron for $3,000,000.  (Well, of course, that is a ridiculous exaggeration, but no more ridiculous that the claim that in Virginia, there are thousands of non-violent people in our prisons charged with Possession of Narcotics or Possession of Marijuana.)  So here are the facts.

I am presently a Drug Lawyer in Fairfax Virginia, defending people who have unfortunately be charged with Possession of Drugs / Narcotics or Marijuana.  When they come to my office they are always afraid of going to prison because they have heard over and over and over people say that non-violent drug possession lands people in prison.  In short, in Virginia, it is nearly impossible to get one millisecond in prison (or even in jai) for Possession of Drugs (e.g. Cocaine, Crack, Heroin, Prescription Medications without a prescription, Ecstasy (a.k.a. MDMA or Molly); Opioids, PCP, etc. etc. 

I served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1994 – 2017.  I was Chairman of the Courts of Justice (“Judiciary”) Committee that oversaw criminal justice in Virginia.  In 2013, we commissioned a study to look at whether there were non-violent offenders in Virginia prisons.  And here is what we found:  In this study year of 2013, there were only 724 people (2%) out of 36,647 in prison for Possession of Drugs.  In my opinion, even 2% is too much.  No one should ever get prison for first offense drug possession.  They should get treatment.  So, we looked closely at this 764 people.  And we found that almost zero were in prison for first offense possession.  Why is that? Because any good Drug Lawyer Fairfax County Virginia knows there is a statute that allows a person to avoid a conviction altogether if they get treatment and have negative drug tests for a year.  This is called a “251 Disposition” after the Code Section 18.2-251.  This states:  

§ 18.2-251. Persons charged with first offense may be placed on probation; conditions; substance abuse screening, assessment treatment and education programs or services; drug tests; costs and fees; violations; discharge.

Whenever any person who has not previously been convicted of any criminal offense under this article or under any statute of the United States or of any state relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drugs, or has not previously had a proceeding against him for violation of such an offense dismissed as provided in this section, or pleads guilty to or enters a plea of not guilty to possession of a controlled substance under § 18.2-250, the court, upon such plea if the facts found by the court would justify a finding of guilt, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the accused, may defer further proceedings and place him on probation upon terms and conditions. If the court defers further proceedings, at that time the court shall determine whether the clerk of court has been provided with the fingerprint identification information or fingerprints of the person, taken by a law enforcement officer pursuant to § 19.2-390, and, if not, shall order that the fingerprints and photograph of the person be taken by a law enforcement officer.

In short, the Judge makes a finding of guilt, but does not enter it and instead defers the case for either 6 months or a year.  As the Drug Lawyer Fairfax County Virginia will explain to his client, if the Defendant stays clean, takes a class and maybe counseling, and has all negative drug tests during that period, the case gets dismissed.

What about second offense.  Well, the second offense is then considered a “first offense” because the “first offense” was likely dismissed through that 251 Disposition.  With first and second offenses, the Sentencing Guidelines recommend probation.  So, it is quite unlikely that any prison time would be given.

Then, if they get charged a third time (which is really a fourth because of the 251 Disposition), maybe they some time in jail.  Judges will do it for the Defendant’s own good, just to get them off the street and get treatment in jail.  

So why does the study show that in 2013, were 764 people in prison for Possession of Drugs?  Any Drug Lawyer Fairfax County Virginia can predict the reason.  It MUST be one of the following: (1) Defendants who were multiple offenders (e.g. 4th+ offense) OR (2) Defendants who were charged with a worse charge like Distribution or Possession with the Intent to Distribute and took a plea bargain where the Prosecutor AND the Defendant AND the Defense Attorney all agreed that the charge would be reduced to Possession but prison time was required, OR (3) Defendant was charged with Possession but had a bad criminal record like prior Burglary or Distribution charges.

In short, I bet 99% of these 764 were NOT first offense Possession offenders.  Thus, there is nearly no one in prison for first offense Possession of narcotics.  (I say “nearly no one” because there could be an outlier.  For example, a first time offender for some reason chose to go to trial and was found guilty by a Jury and the Jury gave him prison.)  And if anyone says that any person gets jail for first offense Possession of Marijuana, that is even more laughable, because, for the same reasons as with drugs above, in Virginia, it does not happen.  Also note that as of July 1, Possession of Marijuana < 1 oz is not even a crime and punishable by $25 fine.  

So while you don’t want a conviction on your record, don’t let an attorney scare you into thinking you will go to prison for first offense Possession of Drugs.  Hire an experienced Drug Lawyer in Fairfax Virginia who will give it to you straight. Contact Dave Albo – Attorney law firm.

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