Juvenile Drug Distribution Charges
Kids do stupid things. Maybe because they are following cultural suggestions or maybe because they just want to make an easy buck, minors sometimes get caught up in the drug distribution racket. Their parents are probably aware that such actions can have long term consequences. The good news is that, while drug charges are serious, Virginia takes a rehabilitative approach that presents the possibility of keeping a long term conviction off the minor’s record.
Generally, for adult marijuana distributions the offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor if it involves less than half an ounce. More than a half ounce but less than 5 pounds is punished as a Class 5 felony. More than 5 pounds leads to a sentence of between 5 years and 30 years. However, in many case the key is not getting the juvenile charged as an adult at all.
Keeping the Case in the Juvenile Courts
For minors, that is, those under the age of 18, criminal cases must originate in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Courts. The judges in these courts have a wide range of options available for disposing of juvenile defendants. They can, for example, place the defendant on house arrest or, in some cases, they can even defer ruling on the charge and dismiss the case if the defendant complies with a probationary period. The decision on whether or not a juvenile case will be transferred will often depend on the judge. If the child is above the age of 14, the Commonwealth can request that an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult be transferred to the Circuit Court for adult trial. In some cases, the Commonwealth will automatically be able to have the case transferred. One such case is where the particular defendant has already been convicted twice of a drug distribution offense.
What Happens if a Juvenile is Charged as an Adult?
Even if the juvenile is charged as an adult, there may be defenses available. The Commonwealth needs to prove all of the same elements of drug distribution against a juvenile as it would against an adult. The hardest of these elements to prove is the element of intent. It’s not necessarily enough that there is a large quantity drugs or that the drugs are packaged in a certain way. There are good defense arguments that can be made in either case. However, it should be noted that if the juvenile is convicted of the felony, it will normally remain on the child’s record life.
Keeping that felony off the child’s record is often going to be worth the payment of any other consequence in the case. No one wants a child’s life to be over before it can begin. The Commonwealth can be convinced in some cases to reduce the juvenile’s drug charge to something below the felony range. It’s critical that the child have facts that show that he won’t be a problem in the future. Good grades and employment help. So do efforts at rehabilitation such as community service and drug counseling. Contacting an attorney in these critical cases can often help to come up with ideas to help show that this juvenile doesn’t deserve to be branded for life.