It probably comes as no shock to know that officials in the criminal justice community continue to crack down on drug crimes, and the Virginia Department of State Police annual publication Crime in Virginia is proof. In 2019, there were 46,429 people arrested for violating controlled substances laws, including possession, selling, and trafficking. More than half of these individuals faced marijuana-related charges, but offenses involving methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine also topped the list.
However, while you might expect that a drug crimes arrest will almost always lead to incarceration, there may be other ways to resolve your case without going to jail. One option is Virginia’s first offender program, which is similar to probation. You should consult with a Virginia drugs crimes defense attorney right away regarding the details, but you might find it useful to review some information on the benefits and eligibility rules.
Pros and Cons of the First Offender Diversion Program for Drug Crimes: Virginia has one of the harshest sentencing systems in the US when it comes to those convicted for drug offenses, even imposing jail time and fines for misdemeanor charges. Virginia’s statute on the first offender diversion program for drug crimes offers qualifying individuals a way to avoid these penalties through a specialized type of probation. If you’re eligible, you might consider:
- Pros: When you opt for the first offender diversion program, the judge will enter the appropriate order and specify the terms and conditions for you to complete it. When you meet all the requirements set by the court, you won’t have a felony or misdemeanor conviction on your record.
- Cons: Though a conviction will not appear in your criminal history, your record will reflect that you participated in the first offender program. Plus, if you do violate the terms of your probation, you could be sentenced to the maximum penalties that apply to the original charges.
Keep in mind that there are additional factors to discuss with your lawyer to determine whether the first offender diversion program is the right fit for your situation.
Eligibility Rules: The initial consideration in whether you qualify for the program is in the name itself: Only first-time offenders can take advantage of diversion, so you’re not eligible if you were previously convicted or otherwise subject to legal proceedings regarding a drug crime. In addition, you must be facing charges for possession of a controlled substance. The first offender program is not available for charges involving distribution, manufacturing, and selling controlled substances.
Requirements for Completing the First Offender Program: If you qualify and opt for diversion, you’ll be on probation for the time period designated by the court AND your driver’s license will be suspended for six months. Plus:
- You must complete drug assessment, treatment, and educational programs;
- You must refrain from using alcohol or drugs during probation, and you will be tested;
- You need to participate in community services hours, depending on the nature of the charge under Virginia’s classification of drugs according to Schedule. The requirements are 24 hours for a misdemeanor and 100 hours for a felony.
Reach Out to a Virginia Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer for Legal Help
If you’re facing charges for a drug offense, retaining skilled legal counsel is a top priority. Our team at Leary Law, P.C. can assist with your case, so please contact our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA to set up a consultation. Once we review your circumstances, we can explain the first offender program for drug crimes and assess whether you qualify. We can also determine whether there are defenses or other options to obtain a favorable outcome.