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Marijuana Possession in the Current Culture: Best Case Resolutions and Possible Outcomes

For many people, being caught with a small amount of marijuana in Virginia thrusts otherwise good, honest, law abiding citizens minding their own business into the clutches of the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system for the first time. However, even when the evidence seems insurmountable, and no legal defense seems available, it is important to keep in mind that it is still possible to obtain a favorable outcome. In today’s society, with simple possession legal just across the Potomac, I know I am not alone in questioning why police continue to such a strong stance and arrest so many people for marijuana in Northern Virginia. Indeed, the majority of cases that people contact my Criminal Defense practice is for marijuana related arrests. I know I am not alone in sharing these views. Prosecutors know that the community (i.e. potential jurors) no longer view simple marijuana possession as the evil it was made out to be. In fact there are a lot of people in the community who use marijuana themselves. Prosecutors know this. As such, there is generally room based on individual circumstances in most cases to find a favorable resolution that doesn’t involve an uncertain trial or conviction. Some of these favorable outcomes are discussed below. Should you have any questions regarding your individual case, Thomas Silis and the experienced attorneys at Silis & Associates would be more than happy to sit down with you for a consultation to discuss the unique circumstances surrounding each individual and their case.

Dismissal

That’s right, even when people are otherwise seemingly guilty of marijuana possession, in some cases it is still possible to obtain a dismissal of their charges. The facts of each case greatly determine the possibility of obtaining a dismissal. For example, if this is your first offense, then generally you would stand in a better position than those with a prior record, especially someone with prior drug related convictions. Prosecutors tend to be more willing to consider this option for juveniles, college students, and those who desire to go into a career where having a conviction could cause problems (e.g. law enforcement, security clearance positions, etc.) In almost all cases, taking proactive measures like voluntarily submitting to drug screenings and attending substance abuse programs, and performing community service, etc., can only increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable result. As the circumstances of each case, including the individual prosecutor and police officers involved, greatly influence the ability to obtain a dismissal, many defendants turn to the experienced attorneys at Silis & Associates to help them navigate the criminal justice system. Thomas Silis has extensive experience negotiating marijuana and drug possession cases, and the knowledge to know when it would be better to attempt to negotiation with a prosecutor or take the case to trial. Additionally, Thomas has the knowledge to advise clients based on the individual circumstances of their case as to what actions to take before their court date, as well as which arguments will play well certain prosecutors, in order to maximize the chance of achieving a dismissal of their charges.

Deferred Dismissal (Va. Code 18.2-251)

In some cases, prosecutors may be unwilling to grant an outright dismissal. However, they may be willing to dismiss the charges after a year, provided that the defendant complete certain actions. This is known amongst defense attorneys as a 251 dismissal, and has both advantages and disadvantages. Acknowledging that good people sometimes get caught up in simple drug possession cases, the Virginia Legislature has provided a way for a first-time offender to avoid the stain of a conviction on their record. Under the 251 program, a defendant is only eligible if they have not previously pleaded facts sufficient or have a conviction for drug possession. Additionally, a defendant is required to undergo an alcohol and substance abuse program, during which random drug screenings are administered, as well as other requirements. After a one-year waiting period, if the defendant has complied with all of their requirements, then the charges will be dismissed. The downside of the 251 program is that, while the defendant will not have a conviction on their record, the initial arrest will not be removable through expungement. It is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine if a 251 deferred dismissal is the best disposition based on the facts of each case and the client’s circumstances.

Amended Charge

Even when a person has previous convictions for marijuana or drug possession, and other options may not be available, it may still be possible to avoid a subsequent possession conviction by agreeing to amend the charge to a less serious offense. These outcomes tend to be largely driven by the circumstances of the client’s case as well as their preference for an amended charge. In the past, Thomas Silis has been able to negotiate with the Commonwealth to lower the possession charge to various forms of paraphernalia violations even for people with an extensive drug record.

Trial

If all else fails, defendants still have their constitutional right to trial by a jury of their peers. Depending on the circumstances of each case, there may be 4th Amendment issues present with the initial search or seizure. Additionally, Thomas has experience challenging probable cause for the stop as well as dominion and control issues necessary to establish possession. Although still the more risky, in today’s culture there has been an increase in dismissing simple marijuana possession charges even when the evidence is overwhelming. While going to trial is inherently more risky than other options available for resolution, it may be the best option for some clients in certain cases.

Thomas Silis has extensive experience negotiating, trying, and resolving marijuana and drug possession cases in every jurisdiction in the Northern Virginia area. If you have any questions regarding the facts of your individual case as well as what actions you can take to put yourself in the best possible scenario to obtain a favorable resolution, contact (703) 721-4773 to arrange for a free consultation with the experienced attorneys at Silis & Associates today.