WHAT IS POSSESSION OF PARAPHERNELIA? HOW DOES IT RELATE TO A POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA CHARGE IN FAIRFAX COUNTY?
Possession of Paraphernalia is very rarely charged in Fairfax County or anywhere in Virginia really. This is because the actual statute doesn’t cover what most people expect it to cover. While the title makes you think it relates to having a bowl, bong or some other marijuana smoking device, the statute actually relates to syringes. Nevertheless, a paraphernalia charge is a frequently negotiated reduction of a marijuana charge.
The way the process works is as follows. A Prosecuting attorney in Fairfax will meet with the officer and discuss your case the day of court. If the Prosecutor is so inclined they may offer to reduce the charge to paraphernalia under section 54.1-3466. This is a favorable reduction for some people, it is less than favorable for others. It really depends on what the individuals biggest concern about the case is.
The biggest advantage to a reduction of the charge to paraphernalia is that a conviction will usually just carry with it a small fine of about $100 or so. There is no required loss of license and you don’t have to attend any drug classes. The downside is that the punishment is a conviction which will stay on your record for life. It is not a drug conviction though.
If you are charged with a first offense marijuana possession you should talk to your lawyer before court to determine whether a reduction to possession of paraphernalia would be beneficial for you. If your biggest concern is your record, then you would not want to take the reduction. That is because If you suffer through the loss of license and the drug classes the marijuana charge will be dismissed under the 251 program. If however, your biggest concern is losing your license many people will prefer the reduction, because it allows them to trade having a clean record for their license.
Regardless, you should make sure you understand all the possible ramifications and consequences of both options before you go to court.