If you or someone you know is facing a first offense felony drug charge, understanding the charges and possible penalties can be challenging. In general, felony drug charges are a more serious type of crime in that they result in more severe punishments; those charged may find themselves in prison or fined heavily. However, a felony drug charge does not have to mean significant punishments, and a lawyer skilled in representing drug crime cases will be able to ensure that you see the best possible result when you go to court.
What Makes A Felony Drug Charge
Drug charges are not necessarily felonies by nature; misdemeanor drug possession or distribution charges also exist. Typically, a person will be charged with felony drug possession based upon the schedule of the drug—in other words, how the substance ranks in terms of abuse potential and medical use. Schedule 1 and 2 substances include drugs like heroin, cocaine and morphine, and drugs that fall into these categories typically qualify for a felony charge.
However, the type of drug is not the only factor that determines whether a drug charge is classed as a felony or misdemeanor. Possession of a small amount of a drug may constitute a misdemeanor, but possession of a large amount of drugs—even if they are lower on the schedule—could move the charges up to a felony. Distribution of the substances is another factor that increases the likelihood of the charge increasing in severity to a felony; because the potential for harm increases when controlled substances are distributed to others, this type of drug crime is more likely to be a felony.
Overview Of Legal Procedure
The legal procedure for approaching a first offense felony drug charge will depend largely on your unique circumstances, such as whether the charge is for possession or distribution, how much of the substance you were carrying and whether any aggravating factors are at play that may make penalties harsher. Aggravating factors, such as distributing or possessing substances in a school zone, can increase the severity of your charge.
Possible Penalties Of Felony Drug Charges
Felony drug charges tend to receive more stringent punishments than misdemeanor charges. Felony possession or distribution could garner a fine of several thousand dollars and potentially a year or more in prison for first offenders. The exact amount charged in a fine or imposed in a prison sentence will vary depending upon the amount of the drug possessed as well as its type.
Factors To Consider In A Felony Drug Charge Defense
When considering a defense against felony drug charges for first time offenders, a number of options are available. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can collaborate with you to file a compelling defense that uses available evidence, if applicable, to challenge certain aspects of your charge. A court can only move to convict if the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty, and an experienced attorney may be able to call your case into question on the grounds of the substance possessed, how much was possessed and even whether or not it belonged to you. A lawyer may also approach the case from the perspective of law enforcement to ensure that you were not a victim of unlawful search or police misconduct.
For first offense felony drug charges in Virginia, the state also offers a special drug court—a first time offender may elect to participate in a drug program in exchange for reduced penalties or even dismissal of the case. If you would like to pursue this avenue, be aware that you may have to undergo limitations, such as having your driver’s license temporarily suspended. You may also need to submit to random drug and alcohol tests, perform community service or attend a drug education and rehabilitation program.
Talk To An Experienced Defense Attorney
Understanding your options and choosing the path that is best for your situation can be difficult when you are faced with a first offense felony drug charge. That is why it is critical to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review your unique situation and recommend a strategy for approaching your charge. A felony drug charge does not have to mean automatic fines and jail time; work with a lawyer to approach your case wisely given the available evidence.
The Brown Firm offers comprehensive legal services that can put you back on track during and after your felony drug charges. Whether you need representation to reduce your penalties or even prove that the drug charges have been made in error, The Brown Firm is available to discuss your situation. Reach out to a skilled attorney to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome for your case.