In Virginia and across the United States, there is currently a drug epidemic, with a particular emphasis on heroin and other opioids. As a result, drug charges are somewhat unique because they can either be pursued as state or federal crimes based on certain factors. In the event that you are accused of selling drugs and regardless of which level of government is prosecuting your case, if you’re convicted for drug dealing, you’ll most likely be facing some dire consequences.
If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of handling a drug-dealing allegation in Virginia, at either the state or federal level, finding a criminal defense attorney, who is experienced in both areas is an excellent place to start. For assistance with a state or federal drug case, your first call should be to the Roanoke drug lawyers with Copenhaver, Ellet & Derrico.
There are several complexities involved with handling a drug-dealing case. Our lawyers have the experience necessary to address whatever issues arise at any level. Reach out online, or call us at (540) 343-9349 to discuss your case, and see how we can help.
How are State and Federal Drug Crimes Determined?
Determining if your drug crime should be classified as a state or federal offense depends on several factors. For instance, your charges may be federal if:
- A federal officer arrested you;
- You were arrested, or committed a crime, on federal property; or
- A federal informant named you.
It is also important to note that there is no formal requirements surrounding federal drug charges. Federal authorities often pick up cases involving large quantities of drugs and it is not unusual for a seemingly straightforward state drug case to be taken over by a federal agency if it meets their needs. Technically, you can even be charged in both state and federal court for the same drug offense, although this is unusual.
Whether you drug charge is pursued at the federal or state level will affect how it progresses in the court system, the political pressure to secure a conviction, and the degree of punishment you’re likely to receive. This classification and your possible defenses, will, therefore, be dependent on your specific circumstances.
Virginia Drug Dealing Penalties Vary From Drug to Drug
Under Virginia state law, the penalties for drug distribution depend on what specific drug you’re found with. Specifically, the Virginia Code regarding Schedule I or II substances assigns a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $500,000 fine, for your first offense of:
- Distributing; or
- Possessing with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute.
This includes any amount of drugs like cocaine and heroin. There is an exception for methamphetamines: a maximum of 20 years imprisonment with a $500,000 fine. For any amount of a Schedule III or IV substance (which includes opioids and tranquilizers), you may face up to 10 years imprisonment, and fines up to $2,500 for your first offense. If you are convicted more than once, your maximum possible prison sentence is increased to life.
Marijuana penalties differ based on how much marijuana you’re convicted of selling or intending to sell. Your punishment can also increase for selling marijuana to a minor, or too close to a school. The maximum sentence you can receive for distributing marijuana in Virginia is a $1,000,000 fine, as well as 40 years imprisonment. Cultivating any amount of marijuana can cause you to be incarcerated for up to 30 years, and could cost you as much as $10,000.
Federal Drug Crimes Usually Carry More Serious Punishments
Many states model their drug legislation on the federal statutes. Federal statues generally assign much stricter consequences for the distribution of drugs. Upon your first federal conviction for trafficking:
- Methamphetamines; or
You will face a minimum of five years incarceration. You may also be fined up to $20,000,000. Even if it’s your first offense, you could face a life sentence. Federal law allows you to be imprisoned for life if there was a death or serious injury related to your drug distribution. Also, you could face a maximum sentence of life if the amount of the particular drug you were trafficking is over a certain threshold.
Lesser Drugs Still Carry Hefty Federal Sentences
Even if you’re caught selling a drug that is not as heavily regulated, the federal penalties can still be severe. If you’re convicted for selling any Schedule I or II drugs besides those mentioned above, you’ll face a maximum of 20 years incarceration for your first offense, and 30 years for your second.
Schedule III drugs will see you imprisoned for as many as five years for your first offense, and 10 years for your second. Distributing a Schedule IV substance carries potential imprisonment of three years (first conviction) or six years (for a subsequent conviction). For distributing a Schedule V drug, your first offense can see you locked up for a year, while your second offense can land you behind bars for two years.
Marijuana Carries the Most Variance In All Federal Drug Penalties
Similar to the state level, the federal punishment for distributing marijuana varies more than punishments for other drugs. The variance is in accordance with the amount of marijuana you’re found with. If that amount is above a federally established threshold, you may face life imprisonment for your first marijuana trafficking conviction.
An Attorney May Be Able to Help You With Your Drug Case
Talking to an attorney will l be essential in sorting out your state or federal drug trafficking case. To speak with a highly-skilled Virginia drug crimes lawyer, contact Copenhaver, Ellet & Derrico today. From what punishment you may face, to possible defenses, we understand the law and what it will take to protect you. Make an appointment to discuss your case using our online form, or call us at (540) 343-9349 .