Don't Carelessly Plead to First Offense Marijuana Charge

In Virginia, every first drug offense is eligible for a dismissal upon completion of probation. This type of dismissal happens hundreds of time every week in every court in the Richmond area. Some charged persons freely accept that this resolution is their only choice when they are charged withpossession of marijuana. I always tell clients that a dismissal pursuant to these terms is not as good as a finding of Not Guilty for several reasons. First, dismissal requires a period of supervised probation and ongoing drug testing. Second this result includes a 6 month suspension of license. Third, a dismissal requires payment of Court costs, drug testing fees, and lab tests.

Citizens should be aware that the first offense dismissal options are available to courts even if a person pleads not guilty. A court may enter such a result even over the objection of a prosecutor. In other words, often there is no benefit to giving up your right to fight a drug charge. Additionally, if a person has previously had a first offense dismissal, that person is never eligible to have that resolution again.

There are many ways to fight marijuana cases. Virginia recently passed a law allowing for the admissibility of field marijuana tests. Although police officers are trained to use these tests, they are not frequently asked to testify as expert witnesses in the administrative tests. Accordingly police officer's application of the tests do not always perfectly follow the manufacturer's required instructions for the use of these tests. Vigorous cross examination can result in the inadmissibility of one of these tests. Finally, there are interesting new challenges to the methodology and reliability of field sobriety tests.

I always advise each client to strongly consider his right to fight his charges. Please contact me if you have a marijuana or other drug case you wish to challenge.

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