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Virginia drug distribution: Legal facts and consequences

By far, the majority of charges for drug wrongdoing include the possession of drugs. According to a 2012 report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than 82 percent of the arrests reported dealt with drug possession, while fewer than 18 percent of arrests nationwide involved drug distribution and manufacturing.

Newport News residents should be aware that possession of drugs can lead to distribution charges. Arresting officers will judge whether a drug is intended for personal use by the amount of drugs in a defendant's possession, particularly if he or she is also carrying a significant amount of cash. The distinction is important, since a distribution charge is a much more serious offense than possession, with distribution sentences ranging from three-year to lifetime prison terms.

Distribution charges are attached to illegal drug businesses covering importing, transporting and sales. Charges and consequences for drug trafficking depend upon the controlled substances' quantity and type, any previous convictions and the location of the drug trade. An example of a location-related drug trafficking offense: selling drugs on or near school grounds or in other areas children frequent.

Controlled substances – chemicals and drugs under government control – are categorized at the federal and state levels. The Drug Enforcement Administration breaks down drugs into five categories, in part, according to how addictive they are. For instance, the abuse potential for Schedule V drugs, like cough syrup, is lower than the most dangerous drugs under Schedule I, like heroin and, surprising to some, marijuana.

Drug trafficking charges apply to street drugs like heroin and cocaine as much as they do illegally-distributed prescription medications. Even doctors, who have the authority to write prescriptions, can be charged with trafficking for operating outside the boundaries of the law.

Drug distribution trials can take place in state or federal courts. A criminal defense attorney must be familiar with both legal arenas to represent a defendant effectively.

Source: FindLaw, "Drug Trafficking/Distribution" Sep. 02, 2014

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