Many people think that because an officer wrote them a ticket for marijuana, instead of arresting them, that a Fairfax marijuana charge isn’t a big deal. This thinking is far from the truth and is very dangerous. Every day in Fairfax, people will go to court without doing their research, waive their rights, and enter a drug program not knowing what exactly is involved or how it will impact their lives. You should never agree to anything in court before talking to a lawyer. If you don’t know your rights, how can you know if the program is a good offer or not? If you don’t know the long-term consequences, how can you agree? They don’t tell you in court that you will not be able to get an expungement if you do the program. Yourarrest for possession of marijuana will be on your record for the rest of your life.
Faraji Rosenthall is a former prosecutor in Fairfax and a skilled marijuana lawyer. He has handled hundreds of marijuana cases in Fairfax and has a great ability to get good results in tough cases. He always offers honest opinions on what you can expect when you go to court, and there is never a charge for the initial consultation.
If you are charged with possession of marijuana in Fairfax, call our office to discuss your case for free. Learn your rights and make sure you protect yourself from being punished unnecessarily.
Fairfax Possession of Marijuana Court Procedures
In Fairfax marijuana cases, the sentencing process varies depending on whether you are eligible for the 251 program, named for the code section that created it. Under this law, a person who has never been convicted of a drug crime is eligible for a deferred disposition, meaning the case is continued, usually for six months to a year. During that period, you must comply with certain requirements. Typically these include completing 24 hours of community service, attending anti-drug classes and staying out of trouble. At the conclusion of the continuance period, the case is dismissed if all requirements are satisfied. If you fail, you will be convicted and the judge will impose punishment.
Marijuana cases in Fairfax are heard five times a week. Early in the day, the judge will call all those eligible for the 251 program and gauge their interest in participating. Judges typically refer to the process as being interviewed, but that’s actually a misnomer. It’s really more of an information session. You meet with an advisor from the program and you are told exactly what’s expected of you. If you find the terms of the program acceptable, the judge will usually put you in the program without really knowing how strong or weak the case against you is.
Like all drug convictions, participation in the 251 program requires a six-month loss of your driver’s license. If you have a valid license at the time of entering the program, many judges will allow you to obtain a restricted license.
There is no question – completing the 251 program is a pain. Loss of license, community service, classes – all take time and money. However, the program is one of the few exceptions under Virginia law where a guilty party is able to avoid a lifelong criminal record. For many people, a 251 resolution is a good result.
If you have hired a Fairfax marijuana lawyer to represent you, then your case will take a different path after the completion of the interview. In Fairfax, the Commonwealth Attorney only gets involved in cases where a defense attorney has been hired. Pro-se defendants, or people without lawyers, typically aren’t able to discuss their cases with the prosecutor.This presents a tremendous advantage to the person who has hired a lawyer. The Commonwealth Attorney has great discretion in how he or she chooses to prosecute cases. A sympathetic prosecutor may agree to terms better than those offered under the 251 program. Even in the worst-case scenario, a prosecutor will almost certainly allow you to do the program. Hiring an attorney on your marijuana case is beneficial even if you are eligible for the program.
An option sometimes available to people facing Fairfax marijuana charges is a reduction to a possession of paraphernalia charge. There are pros and cons to this reduction depending on what is important to you. Typically, a paraphernalia charge will only carry a small fine. That means that you are able to avoid the loss of license associated with a marijuana conviction. However, it also usually carries with it a conviction which will stay on your record for life. If you are more concerned about your record than your license, you will usually prefer the 251 program. However, if you are more concerned about your license than your record, you will usually prefer the paraphernalia conviction.
The 251 program is a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card, in that it is only good once. After having your case dismissed under the program terms, you are not eligible to participate again. This also prohibits you from using the 251 program should you have a felony drug charge in the future.