Drug Crimes: Misdemeanors vs. Felonies

drugs on a $100 with handcuffs

In Virginia, there are both misdemeanor and felony charges for drug possession. Knowing which type of charge is at issue may help prevent confusion, as well as give the accused some more information about what penalty and type of trial they can expect.


While drug crimes, in general, tend to come with some of the most severe penalties, some drug offenses are misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are much less extreme than felonies. In Virginia, misdemeanors are broken down into 4 different classes based on the type of drugs. The penalties are as follows:

Class 1

MARIJUANA POSSESSION OR DISTRIBUTION: Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious form of misdemeanors. The most commonly seen class 1 misdemeanor drug charges are marijuana charges. Possession of marijuana is a class 1 misdemeanor. Distribution of marijuana is also a class 1 misdemeanor if the amount of marijuana is less than one half- ounce

The penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor drug charge are:

  • Fines up to $2,500
  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • In some cases a combination of both
  • Suspension of driving privileges

Class 2

VALIUM AND XANAX: While class 2 misdemeanors are generally less serious than class 1 crimes, Virginia still treats them harshly. Illegal possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance is a class 2 misdemeanor. Valium and Xanax or examples of schedule IV drugs

Penalties for this misdemeanor are:

  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • In some cases both

Class 3

CODEINE AND COUGH SYRUP: Class 3 misdemeanors are less severe than class 2 and are most often punished with fines instead of jail time. Codeine and cough syrup or examples of schedule III drugs.

The penalties may include:

  • Fines up to $500

Class 4

Class 4 misdemeanors are the least severe of all misdemeanors. Possession of a Class VI substance will end with a class 4 misdemeanor. A Class VI substance is essentially any drug that wasn’t categorized in classes 1-5. For a class 4 misdemeanor, a fine of up to $250 may be issued.


SCHEDULE I AND SCHEDULE II DRUGS: Possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II substances are charged as felonies. Virginia Code § 18.2-250 makes it illegal to knowingly possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Schedule I and II drugs are profiled by their highly addictive nature, some examples are:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Cocaine
  • Oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Methamphetamine

Penalties for possessing schedule I or II drugs can include a 10-year prison sentence, as well as fines up to $2,500, and the loss of driving privileges for up to six months. Additionally, a felony conviction imposes permanent encumbrances on a person's civil rights. Including but not limited to: loss of voting privileges, impediments to employment, and banishment from owning a firearm.

GUNS AND DRUGS: Some drug possession offenses in state and federal court involve mandatory sentences. Specifically Virginia § 18.2-308.4. provides that simultaneous possession of a gun and drugs is a separate and distinct Class 6 felony that carries a mandatory 2-year sentence.

Defending Your Richmond Drug Crime

When it comes to securing a conviction on felony drug possession charges in Virginia, the prosecutor must prove:

  • That law enforcement legally seized the drugs
  • You had “dominion and control” over the drug at issue.
  • You were aware of the “nature and character” of the substance

CONSTITUTIONAL DEFENSES: Drug possession cases often involve motions to suppress illegal searches or arrests. If the arrest involved a search warrant an experienced lawyer will challenge the admissibility of evidence seized illegally.

FIRST OFFENDER PROGRAMS: Virginia courts have special programs for people accused of a first offense drug possession. These programs are available regardless of the type of drug. If an attorney can get his client into this program and the client successfully completes the program the Court will place that person on probation and dismiss the charge.

Consulting with a qualified Richmond criminal defense attorney can help guide you through the process and fight for your rights. At Vaughan C. Jones Attorney at Law, we work diligently to ensure our clients receive the best possible outcome.

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Virginia, our experienced criminal defense attorney can help walk you through the process and evaluate the details of your case.

Call today (804) 207-5735 to discuss your rights.

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