Teenagers are known for breaking the rules and testing their limits. In some cases, that involves experimenting with drugs and alcohol. But what happens when the police get involved? Teenagers under the age of 18 who are found in possession of illegal substances may face criminal charges in juvenile court.
Under Va. Code 18.2-250, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Drugs are divided into categories, from Schedule I to Schedule VI. Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, are considered the most serious as they have a high likelihood of being abused and no accepted medical use.
Minors who are found guilty of drug possession may face one or more of the following consequences:
- Up to $500 in fines
- Community service
- Substance abuse treatment
- Drug education program
What about marijuana?
Many states, including Virginia, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, there are still some restrictions. Generally, in Virginia, under Va. Code 4.1-1105.1, no one under the age of 21 is allowed to possess any marijuana or marijuana products.
A person under the age of 21 in possession of any amount of marijuana may have to pay a maximum of $25 in civil penalties and/or be required to undergo substance abuse treatment/enter a drug education program. A person under the age of 18 found in possession of marijuana, may face these consequences, and be considered delinquent in juvenile court, which may result in additional consequences including license suspension and probation.
A drug possession charge can dramatically impact the future of a young person, even if they do not go to jail. An effective criminal defense strategy can help reduce the charges or have them dismissed entirely. For example, one defense may be establishing that the teen was unaware they were in possession of an illegal substance because they borrowed someone else’s backpack or jacket. A defense strategy will be tailored to fit the circumstances surrounding the case in question.