When you’re facing drug charges, it’s imperative to get an honest understanding of VA felony drug sentencing guidelines and all the potential penalties. Virginia harshly punishes drug crimes, and your sentence depends heavily on the judge or jury’s discretion. An experienced criminal defense attorney is always your best resource.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we understand the ins and outs of VA felony drug sentencing and the factors that influence these decisions. Let us fight for you to receive a fair outcome in your case. Call us at (540) 343-9349 to schedule an initial consultation.
VA Felony Drug Sentences
There are guidelines in place that tell a judge how they can sentence you if you are convicted in Virginia. But they can be complicated and oftentimes, decades separate the minimum and maximum penalties.
You need an experienced attorney if you want to pursue a lenient sentence or highlight favorable aspects of your case. It’s particularly important to have an engaging and convincing attorney when a jury will decide your fate.
Factors That Impact Your Sentencing
Each offense outlined in Virginia’s criminal code corresponds with a potential maximum penalty. But not everyone receives the maximum jail or prison sentence associated with that crime. In fact, several factors influence your punishment.
The Level of the Offense
The class of the felony you’re convicted of matters a lot .
Virginia has several levels of felonies with different minimum and maximums. For example, a Class 2 felony is punishable with between 20 years and life in prison. But a Class 4 is punishable with between two and 10 years in prison. A Class 6 or Class 5 felony can be penalized like a misdemeanors. In addition, any of these sentences can include suspended time in physical custody, which impacts how long you may spend behind bars and could leave potential time hanging over your head.
Felony Drug Sentencing Differs from Other Felonies in VA
The minimum and maximum penalties for each felony class are the general guidelines. Virginia assigns most drug crimes with different penalties based on the type and amount of the drug involved and your alleged conduct.
For example, if you’re convicted of manufacturing, selling, giving, or distributing a Schedule I or II drug, or possessing a Schedule I or II drug with the intent to manufacture, sell, give, or distribute that drug, then you face between five and 40 years in prison and fines up to $500,000, for a first-time conviction. Drug offenses may also come with Mandatory Minimums.
Your Criminal History
Whether this is your first, second, or fifth offense matters to the judge. A history of criminal conduct increases the likelihood of the judge issuing a harsh sentence.
Other Contributing Factors
Numerous other factors can influence your sentencing, such as your history with drug or substance abuse, your willingness to overcome drug dependency, your academic and work history, and your family and social support.
A judge might review various factors to weigh the severity of your conduct, your danger to society, and your likelihood of committing a crime again.
Work with an Attorney to Reduce Your Potential Sentence
Your sentencing doesn’t happen the same day you’re convicted. There are weeks or months between the date of conviction and date of your sentencing hearing.
This lapse gives your defense attorney time to thoroughly investigate your circumstances and create a strong argument for a lenient sentence. The prosecutor is going to make a sentencing recommendation, and it’ll likely be harsh. In the other hand, your defense lawyer will argue against a lengthy prison sentence.
Drug Court Eligibility
Virginia offers a different court experience for non-violent drug offenders. If you’re eligible for drug court in your county, this option focuses on your recovery and reduces time spent in jail or prison. It typically requires no prior convictions.
Drug court is a less adversarial process that encourages you to participate in and complete substance abuse treatment, remain sober, and go to school or work. This process consists of four phases. You must meet specific goals to move from one phase to the next and eventually graduate from the program.
In addition to, or in place of time in custody, the court might grant you supervised probation. You’ll have a probation officer with whom you have to check in when. Day reporting might be part of your probation, which requires you to check in every day.
Probation comes with several requirements, including completion of substance abuse treatment, education, career training, life skills classes, and community service. You’ll also have to work or prove you’re trying to find work. If you don’t meet all of your requirements, including paying court costs and fees, you’ll return to custody.
One way to pursue a reduced sentence is to enter treatment—and take it seriously. Completing a treatment program and remaining free from drugs or alcohol would be conditions of your probation. You might have to agree to random drug testing. If you didn’t complete the treatment program or you failed a drug test, you’d find yourself back in prison.
You might get electronically monitored house arrest instead of incarceration. During this time, you wear an electronic GPS device and agree to random home inspections. You might be allowed to leave your home for work. You’ll be responsible for the costs of the electronic monitoring program.
Work Release or Weekends Served
Some counties provide the option for you to serve your sentence on weekends to enable you to retrain your employment during the week. A similar program is work release, which enables you to leave the facility each day to go to work. Each county has eligibility requirements and fees for these programs.
Consult a Virginia Felony Drug Defense Lawyer Today
When you’re facing a conviction for one or more drug crimes in Virginia, it’s important not to give up hope or any of your rights during the criminal court process. You have the right to defend yourself vigorously and to pursue the best possible sentence.
Don’t spend a day longer behind bars than you have to. Let a lawyer from Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico review your circumstances and develop a plan to minimize the consequences of a conviction.