First Drug Possession Diversion in Virginia.
Virginia Code § 18-251 provides a statutory diversion program for first drug possession offenses. To qualify, the defendant must not have been “previously convicted” of any prior drug related offenses. This includes offenses under federal law or of any state. The program is good, in that it can resolve a possession charge with minimal impact on the defendant’s criminal record. It is not easy though. There are many requirements.
Under the statute, after the court has enough evidence to convict the defendant of possession of a controlled substance or possession of marijuana (either because they pleaded guilty, or there was a trial) the court can defer entering a judgment of guilt and place the defendant on probation with terms and conditions. The defendant will immediately forfeit any driver’s license for six months, but may apply for a restricted license. The defendant must also be fingerprinted, if that wasn’t done already.
The terms and conditions of probation.
- A substance abuse assessment for the defendant and treatment or education program as appropriate;
- The defendant stay drug and alcohol free during the period of probation and agree to drug or alcohol testing to ensure that they stay drug and alcohol free;
- That the defendant make reasonable efforts to get and keep a job;
- Performance of 100 hours of community service for felony possession or 24 hours of service for misdemeanor possession.
The defendant is responsible for court costs, paying for treatment and education, as well as other costs. If the defendant can comply with all the terms of probation, then the Judge will “discharge the person and dismiss the proceedings against him.” By statute, there is no finding of guilt and the charge remains only for the purposes of determining whether the defendant has a first drug possession offense.
The full text of the statute can be found here.