Marijuana Possession or Not: Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Hashes it Out

Possession of Marijuana (or other illegal contraband) and Standards of Proof by a Fairfax criminal lawyer

Fairfax Criminal LawyerWhat constitutes possession for purposes of making a determination that an individual possessed illegal contraband?

Possession cases are initially brought against the defendant when a law enforcement official determines probable cause exists to believe the suspect has or is committing the crime in question. The actual legal issues are worked out later, whether it is via

  • preliminary hearing,
  • pre-trial negotiations, or
  • a trial itself, among other things.

For more on the actual case law, real examples, and more helpful information from a practicing Virginia defense attorney and local Fairfax marijuana possession defense lawyer, read our recent Virginia Marijuana Possession Guide.

Different Standards of Proof

As a Virginia criminal lawyer well known community leader, and local Fairfax criminal attorney in Northern Virginia, one of the first concepts I explain to the majority of potential and current clients facing possession of marijuana charges is this: there are different standards of proof required at different stages of the system.

For example, for the police officer to effectuate an arrest, he or she must have probable cause to believe the crime is underway, or was very recently committed.

The evidence needed for a determination of probable cause varies case to case,  but your local Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, or Loudoun marijuana possession lawyer can explain to you whether or not it may be a good idea to challenge the probable cause evidence, alleged by the officer to have existed at the time of the arrest.

Case Law

There are many cases that have been decided in Virginia with similar fact patterns as the most common scenarios we see over and over again, but because no two cases are exactly alike, a Virginia defense attorney with broad knowledge of the most current cases is suggested,

  • so your case can be analyzed according to recent case law decisions;
  • factually analogous cases with positive results; and also
  • to find the cases with analogous fact patterns yielding less positive results, so they can be distinguished to the judge, if necessary.

For felonies in General District Court (at a preliminary hearing), the standard is similar to probable cause, but the judge — not the officer — makes the decision. This standard is not even close to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The standard that the Commonwealth must meet, in order to convict, is proof beyond a reasonable doubt (the defendant committed the alleged violation(s) of law, including proof beyond a reasonable doubt that each of the elements of the offense have been satisfied, including mental state if applicable).

Possession of marijuana charges (and any drug or illegal item) and the act of possession itself.

While possessing something may seem straightforward — illogical to convolute — there are legal subtleties, nuances, and fact patterns from previous cases which must be considered in a case where a charged individual maintains innocence, due to lack of awareness of the substance. Please read this article if you are facing a charge and you believe the true individual in possession of the item is someone else. Or, call us at 703.665.3719.

Your Virginia criminal attorney cares enough to educate those who are not aware or unsure of relevant legal issues and/or topics.

In Virginia, mere ownership of a vehicle where drugs are found is not enough for the Commonwealth to successfully argue that just because of that fact, the driver or owner should be said to have been in possession. Do not miss the recent article covering this topic in particular, where our Virginia criminal lawyer and local Northern VA, Fairfax Criminal Lawyer lays out some of the most important cases in recent history.

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Brenton Vincenzes

Virginia Defense Attorney at Vincenzes Law, PLLC
Actively practicing Northern Virginia criminal lawyer and community leader. I believe in making sure the justice system is held to the high standard our founders envisioned, including the protections afforded by the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments.


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