A conviction from drug charges could result in a life-changing prison sentence and hefty fines. An experienced Roanoke drug attorney defends your freedom, reputation, future, and your family’s future.
Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico will answer your questions, thoroughly investigate your case, and develop an effective defense. Let us help clear your name from a Virginia or federal drug charge.
Charges Our Roanoke Drug Lawyers Handle
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we handle all types of drug crimes in Virginia, from state charges for possession to federal drug trafficking charges.
Higher-level offenses include transporting, trafficking, distributing, and selling drugs. If convicted, you could spend several years in prison and face hundreds of thousands in fines.
We have a history of outstanding results in drug cases, including dismissed or reduced charges and courtroom acquittals.
Drug Trafficking/Transporting/Distributing (VA Code §18.2-248.01)
Commonwealth and federal laws use controlled substance schedules to classify drugs: the lower the number, the harsher the sentence.
- Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use. They aren’t safe even when used with medical supervision. They include heroin, LSD, marijuana, mescaline, MDMA, ecstasy, quaaludes, khat, and bath salts.
- Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse but a currently accepted medical use. Abuse could cause severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs include fentanyl, Adderall, Demerol, morphine, methamphetamine, and Ritalin
It is a felony to sell, transport, or traffic an ounce or more of any Schedule I or II substance or five or more pounds of marijuana.
If convicted, you face between five and up to 40 years of imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $1,000,000. A second or subsequent conviction results in a mandatory minimum of 10 years, served consecutively with any other sentence.
Manufacturing Controlled Substance (VA Code §18.2-248)
It is illegal to grow, manufacture, or in any way create controlled substances. This offense includes selling and distributing illegal drugs or possessing them with the intent to manufacture, sell, or distribute them. The level of the crime depends on the type and amount of drugs in your possession.
If Schedule I or II drugs are involved, a conviction will result in a prison term of between five and up to 40 years.
Sale, Distribution & Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana (VA Code §18.2-248.1)
Virginia has legalized limited marijuana possession, but it’s illegal to give, distribute, or sell marijuana, or possess the drug with intent to share, distribute, or sell it.
Possession of five pounds of marijuana is still a class five felony with a punishment of up to ten years in prison or one year in prison and a $2,500 fine or both.
Possession of Controlled Substances (VA Code §18.2-250)
It’s illegal in Virginia to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance unless it’s obtained legally through a valid prescription or with the order of medical professionals acting in the course of their practice. Owning Schedule I or II drugs is a class five felony.
Possessing a Schedule IV substance is a Class 2 misdemeanor (jail time up to six months, a fine up to $1,000, either or both). Schedule IV substances include Xanax, Soma, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. Possessing a Schedule V drug (Lyrica and cough medications with up to 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters) is a Class 3 misdemeanor (a fine of up to $500).
Limited Personal Possession of Marijuana
State law has changed, allowing:
- Limited possession of marijuana
- Giving it away (with restrictions)
- Possession of up to four marijuana plants per household
However, retail sales and distribution to qualifying adults are illegal until January 1, 2024. The state’s Cannabis Control Authority is the regulatory agency responsible for issuing future grower and distributor business licenses.
New Marijuana Guidelines
A patient, parent, legal guardian, or registered agent may possess medical cannabis in Virginia with a valid written certification from a Board of Pharmacy-registered practitioner.
Under the new law:
- Those 21 years and older can legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Possession of more than one ounce but less than a pound is a $25 fine. Possessing more than a pound is a felony.
- Those 21 and older may use marijuana in private residences and grow up to four plants per household.
- “Adult sharing” or transferring one ounce or less between those 21 years or older without payment is also allowed.
What the Marijuana Law Prohibits
- Using or offering marijuana to other adults in a public place
- Anyone younger than 21 to use, buy, possess marijuana, or attempt any of these behaviors.
- Using marijuana while driving or as a passenger in a motor vehicle;
- Possessing marijuana on school grounds.
State Vs. Federal Drug Crimes
Virginia drug charges and federal drug crimes may appear similar, but they are very different.
State drug charges are heard in state courts, with prosecutors who work for the Commonwealth, a county, or a city. Federal drug offenses in Roanoke cases go to the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The prosecutor works for the federal Department of Justice.
Generally, federal prosecutors, courts, and law enforcement agencies have more resources than their Commonwealth counterparts. Federal drug crimes have harsher penalties with mandatory minimum sentences.
Prior drug convictions usually lead to more severe punishment.
Federal Drug Crimes
Specific actions elevate a drug crime to the federal level, including:
- Drug possession, sale, or transport on federal property
- The crime involves a federal employee
- A large quantity of drugs is involved
- Crossed state lines or national borders
- Investigation by a federal agency, such as the DEA or the FBI.
- The crime involves a federal informant
Federal Drug Laws
Many federal laws make illegal a wide range of actions involving many controlled substances. The most common include:
Federal Drug Possession (21 USC 844)
Possession of a controlled substance can result in federal charges. For a first-time offense, you can be sentenced to prison for up to one year and fined up to $1,000.
Federal Drug Trafficking (21 USC 841)
Charges and penalties vary on the type and amount of the drugs. In general, there are three levels of penalties: between 10 years to life, from five to 40 years, or up to 20 years. Your fine could be up to $50 million.
Federal Drug Conspiracy (21 USC 846)
Conspiracy charges occur when there’s evidence two or more people agreed to commit an unlawful act and took a step towards completing it. Suppose you are convicted of conspiracy to commit a federal drug crime. In that case, you face the same penalty as if you committed the underlying drug crime.
Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Crimes
Under 21 USC 841, there are five-year mandatory minimums and 10-year mandatory minimums triggered by specific amounts of different drugs.
- Marijuana: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum – 100 KG / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – 1,000 KG
- Powder Cocaine: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum – 500 G / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – Five KG
- Crack: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum – 28 G / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – 280 G
- Heroin: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum -100 G / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – One KG
- Pure Meth: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum – Five G / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – 50 G
- A Mixture of Meth: Five-Year Mandatory Minimum – 50 G / 10-Year Mandatory Minimum – 500 G
Prison time can increase (in some cases to life in prison) if you have prior convictions or your current or past charges involved someone’s death or severe injury.
Defending Against Drug Charges
The prosecutor has the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In most drug cases where a defendant goes free after a jury trial, the jury didn’t feel the prosecutor carried their burden.
A proactive, aggressive defense raises reasonable doubt or exposes weakness in the prosecution’s case.
What Hurts Your Case
The more substantial the evidence against you, the more challenging your defense. Any of the following can hurt your case:
- Video evidence
- Audio evidence
- Testimony by an undercover agent
- Amount of drugs involved
- Your case involves injury or death
What Helps a Drug Case
Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico has helped clients in and around Roanoke, VA, for more than 50 years. We know which arguments and strategies are the most effective.
Facts are critical to your case. We will:
- Review of prosecution’s evidence, documentation, and testimony
- Re-test substances to identify and verify the amount
- Interview witnesses
- Review physical evidence
- Examine the background of informants, officers, and undercover agents.
Our drug lawyers will conduct an in-depth investigation to find weaknesses in the case against you.
Possible Defense Strategies
Our investigative efforts often reveal discrepancies. Thanks to that evidence, we may find the prosecution’s case doesn’t hold up.
- The officers planted evidence
- Evidence was tampered with or mishandled
- Insufficient grounds to search you or your car
- Police ignored leads showing you weren’t involved
- Prosecutors withheld evidence showing you’re innocent
- Informants or other witnesses may be motivated by a plea.
- Probable cause didn’t exist for the arrest
- Informant testimony may not be reliable
- Witnesses or evidence supports your alibi
Suppose we find that your arrest or other procedures are unlawful. In that case, we may convince a judge to exclude evidence the prosecution needs to prove its case or dismiss the charges.
Our drug crime attorneys excel at negotiation and litigation. We often plea to a lesser charge, press to dismiss the charges, or create a solid defense to return a not guilty verdict.
Drug Charges: Helpful Resources
- Your rights when an officer stops you
- Guide to Virginia’s marijuana legalization
- Roanoke City General District Court
- US District Court Western District of Virginia
Call Our Roanoke Drug Crime Lawyers Today
Were you arrested on drug charges? Are you being investigated for drug activity? Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico. With a record of success in federal and district court drug cases, we work hard and always fight for the best possible outcome.
Call us at 540-343-9349 or contact us online for a free and discrete consultation.