Marijuana possession is a serious charge in Virginia. A conviction can result in jail time, a criminal record and the loss of driving privileges. If you read the newspaper or look at Internet news sites, you often see articles where people are arrested for possession of marijuana and you often see an additional charge in the list: possession of drug paraphernalia. The drug paraphernalia charge is serious as well and many people out there have little, if any, idea of what is involved in such a charge.
Virginia’s Drug Paraphernalia Law
Virginia has a few drug paraphernalia laws. Many believe, however, that the laws only involve syringes and needles. This is not the case. The confusion results, most likely, from having three different laws.
The first law is Virginia Code §54.1-3466. It criminalizes possession of hypodermic syringes and needles for the administration of controlled substances. It also covers gelatin capsules, glassine envelopes, or any other container for the repackaging of controlled substances for the purpose of distribution. Pretty clearly, this doesn’t apply to cases that are typically thought of as simple possession.
The second law, Virginia Code §18.2-265.1, defines a number of prohibited products. They include items intended for use for the ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the body a controlled substance. Specifically prohibited articles include:
- Any type of smoking pipe
- Water pipes
- Smoking or carburetion masks
- Roach clips
The third law, then, is Virginia Code §18.2-265.3. It criminalizes possession of products defined as paraphernalia with the intent to sell or distribute. On first blush, it seems that possession of paraphernalia without the intent to sell or distribute is not illegal. This, in and of itself, is a true statement and a paraphernalia charge seems irrelevant to someone who is being charged with a simple marijuana possession charge. It becomes relevant, though, when it comes time to discuss plea deals.
Pleas Deals and Paraphernalia
Possession of marijuana charges can sometimes be difficult to prove for prosecutors. Therefore, they often look for a way to still obtain a conviction. This is where the paraphernalia charges often come into play. This occurs primarily as a kind of bait and switch. As previously discussed, marijuana possession charges are fairly serious. For many people, even while facing potential jail time and a fine, the most serious part is the loss of driving privileges. Paraphernalia charges do not carry the same penalty when it comes to driving Therefore, many prosecutors will offer a deal for a guilty plea on a paraphernalia charge, knowing that the accused is more likely to take it because it will not result in them losing their driver’s license. The paraphernalia charge is still a Class One misdemeanor and often only appears to be a better solution.
There are circumstances in which taking a plea for a paraphernalia charge might be in an accused’s best interest. However, it takes a careful analysis and negotiation by a seasoned criminal defense attorney to determine if this is true. Jad Sarsour has defended hundreds of clients against drug charges. He has the experience to analyze each individual situation to provide his clients the best possible defense. If you are facing drug charges in Northern Virginia, give him a call at (571) 261-7314 to schedule your initial consultation to begin building your defense strategy today.