Enforcing laws against illegal possession and sale of pharmaceuticals is a high priority for federal authorities, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Virginia, Washington D.C, and Maryland police also prioritize prescription drug arrests—in part because the powerful addictive properties of many painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants can lead offenders to commit other crimes. If you’ve been arrested for illegal possession or sale of prescription drugs, it’s important to know the penalties you may face and how an attorney can help you.
Understanding Controlled Dangerous Substances
Prescription medications are included in the umbrella category of controlled dangerous substances (CDS). Although illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, also fall under this classification, some prescription drugs include:
- OxyContin (oxycodone), Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab, or other painkillers
- Xanax, Ativan, or other anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications
- Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, or other powerful prescription stimulants
- Any other substances legally available only with a valid prescription, including steroids, muscle relaxants, and tranquilizers
What Is Possession in Virginia?
Even if you don’t have the CDS in your hands, law enforcement can still arrest you for possession. Legally, a drug for which you do not have a prescription must only be in your control. So, for example, you can be charged for possession if drugs are found:
- In your glove box
- In your purse
- In your nightstand
- In your medicine cabinet
- On a table in your kitchen
Penalties for Possession Are Severe
No one arrested for prescription drug possession should underestimate the consequences of conviction under complex, strict laws that apply—even if only a few pills were found. CDS fall into six schedules, based on each drug’s potential for abuse. These schedules and the penalties for possession are:
- Schedule I and II drugs have the most severe potential for abuse, and possession of these comes with up to $2,500 in fines, up to 1 year in jail, or both. Additionally, you might face 1 to 10 years in prison.
- Schedule III substances have high potential for abuse, but some medical uses of these drugs are permitted. If you’re caught without a legitimate prescription, you could face a $2,500 fine and up to 1 year in jail, or both.
- Schedule IV drugs have a lower potential for abuse than the more severe schedules, but possession of these without a valid prescription could land you with $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail, or both.
- Schedule V medications have an even lower potential for abuse, but illegal possession may leave an offender with up to a $500 fine.
- Schedule VI substances have the lowest potential for abuse but still require a valid prescription. Without one, possession could mean a $250 fine.
If you’ve been arrested on possession, get clear counsel from a lawyer who knows the law well and also understands prosecution and sentencing patterns in the specific court where a case will be heard.
Defending Possession Charges Is Possible
An experienced attorney is an invaluable resource when you’ve been arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs. While a lawyer will make sure you make informed decisions, he can also create a solid defense for you with the goal of reducing or eliminating charges by employing strategies that include:
- Challenging the legality of the search and seizure
- Proving the substance was not legally in your possession
- Showing the substance isn’t an illegal drug through lab tests
- Arguing that the drugs were planted
- Claiming that law enforcement employed entrapment
When You’re Arrested, Call for Help
We recognize that many people coping with drug addiction need treatment and counseling—not incarceration or another harsh punishment—and we shape our approach to drug crime defense accordingly. At the law firm of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, we will analyze your case thoroughly and help you make sound decisions—whether you ultimately require aggressive defense at trial or negotiation targeting a deferred sentence, treatment, or other alternatives. Call us for the legal help you need today.