Breaking it down
Drug trafficking is a serious felony in Virginia with penalties that can include up to 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
- It’s illegal to transport an ounce or more of cocaine or a Schedule I or II substance, or five pounds or more of marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute the drugs
- Conviction can result not only in jail time but in the government seizing and selling property used in the offense
- If your intent can’t be proven, you may be able to have your charge reduced or dismissed, depending on the facts of your case
Many of the illegal drugs used by Virginia residents are brought in from outside the state. The state treats drug trafficking as a serious crime, and has put special emphasis on battling the crime in particular parts of the state, including Roanoke County.
A felony conviction for drug trafficking under Virginia’s laws can result in decades spent in prison and up to $1 million in fines. But you may find yourself in front of a federal judge, and federal drug penalties can be even more severe.
A conviction can ripple through virtually every part of your life and affect your chances at employment, housing, or a security clearance. It can affect your ability to go to school or to own guns, or even to vote.
If you’re facing a drug trafficking charge in Virginia, it’s important to get representation from a lawyer with solid experience defending drug cases, and who knows not only the complex framework of state and federal drug laws, but also the courts, the prosecutors and the judges.
What is Drug Trafficking in Virginia?
Drug trafficking is the transport, sale, or importing of certain drugs or controlled substances into Virginia from outside the state with the intent to sell or distribute the drug.
Virginia Code §18.2-248.01 makes it a felony to transport into the state
- 1 ounce or more of cocaine, its components or derivatives
- 1 ounce or more of any Schedule I or II substance
- 5 or more pounds of marijuana.
This is a separate offense from any drug possession or distribution charge.
Virginia Drug Trafficking Penalties
Drug trafficking is an unclassified felony with its own penalties set by statute. A first offense carries a sentence of five to 40 years in prison, with a requirement that you serve at least three years. You also may be fined up to $1 million.
A second or subsequent conviction includes a mandatory minimum of 10 years served. The drug trafficking sentence must be served consecutively with any other sentence, so if you also were sentenced to 10 years for drug manufacturing or distribution, you’re looking at a total of 20 years in prison.
Forfeiture of Property
Virginia law allows the state to seize certain assets connected with drug trafficking. The assets can be sold and the proceeds distributed to law enforcement agencies.
Virginia Code §19.2-386.22 allows the seizure of money, medical equipment, office equipment, lab equipment, motor vehicles, and any personal or real property used in substantial connection with drug manufacturing, sales, distribution or trafficking. So if you’re convicted of transporting cocaine in a car, the state can lawfully take the car and sell it, even if it is not yours.
Defenses for a Drug Trafficking Charge
One thing a prosecutor has to prove when you’re charged with drug trafficking is that you had the intent to sell or distribute the drug. If your intent can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, there may be an opportunity to have the charge reduced to simple possession, or dismissed altogether.
A drug trafficking case also may rely on the police having conducted either an undercover sting operation or a search to find the drugs. Police have to walk a fine line to avoid violating your rights under the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Often there may be flaws in their procedure that can work in your favor and improve your outcome. An experienced drug trafficking attorney will have a thorough knowledge of the constitutional requirements and be able to see how police may have crossed the line in your case.
Facing Drug Trafficking Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with drug trafficking in Virginia, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call our local number at (540) 343-9349.