It is a misdemeanor offense to possess marijuana in Virginia. If convicted, the punishment can include a jail sentence, fine, and permanent criminal record. If you have been charged with this offense, it may be possible to avoid these harsh penalties by raising defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Common Defenses in Virginia Marijuana Possession Cases
Under Virginia law, it is illegal to knowingly or intentionally possess any amount of marijuana. The possession can be actual where the marijuana is found in your possession or constructive where it is found near you. However, even if you know that you are guilty, you may have strong defenses that can seriously weaken the prosecutor’s case against you. Here are a few common ones:
- Illegal search and seizure. Under the Fourth Amendment, you have constitutional protection against illegal searches and seizures of your vehicle, home, and yourself. The police must either have your consent or probable cause to conduct the search. If your constitutional rights were violated by the officer, the evidence may be inadmissible against you.
- Constructive possession. You may be able to challenge the prosecutor’s claim that you were in constructive possession of the marijuana if this was the basis of the arrest. For example, you may be able to show that someone else hid the marijuana in your glove compartment in your vehicle or somewhere in your home without your permission or knowledge. If you can raise sufficient doubts about your constructive possession, the prosecutor may not meet his burden of proof, and the case against you could be dismissed.
- Chain of custody. Even if the police obtained the marijuana legally, they have to show that the proper procedures were followed in collecting, transferring, analyzing, and storing it. If there is any break in the chain of custody, the prosecutor may not be able to introduce the marijuana as evidence against you.
Have you been charged with possession of marijuana in Virginia? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to raise all of your defenses so that you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case. Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free consultation to learn more.