Virginia drug crimes: Manassas heroin arrests

Prince William County, Va., law enforcement announced the June 2013 arrest of two men at their residence in Manassas for heroin-related crimes. According to the police incident report, the defendants were under investigation by detectives from the Prince William-Manassas-Manassas Park Narcotics Task Force.

Law enforcement found heroin, cash and "evidence of distribution" in the apartment. The defendants were held without bond after their arrests and have been charged with distribution of a Schedule I or II narcotic. Heroin is a Schedule I drug - the most severe - because of its "high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use," says the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.

Indeed, heroin use is on the rise, especially in the northeastern part of the country and among teens, since it is now available in powder form that can be inhaled rather than injected by needle. Officials and medical providers have expressed concern in the media about this development because heroin is extremely addictive and dangerous.

People addicted to prescription drugs are among those currently tending to turn to heroin as an alternative. But the heroin available on U.S. streets can be laced with any number of harmful substances and fatal overdoses are not uncommon. As a result, Virginia and federal law enforcement take heroin very seriously and a conviction for a heroin crime can bring steep sanctions, so a vigorous criminal defense is important.

Penalties for drug convictions

Virginia drug crimes, most of which are felonies, fall into three main categories: possession, sale or distribution, and manufacture. Driving under the influence of a drug like heroin is also a crime. The severity of punishment for a drug conviction varies with the drug's nature, the type of crime and other circumstances, but the penalties can include prison, a fine and loss of driving privileges.

In addition, anyone with a criminal record may face lifelong problems relating to the ability to get certain jobs, to rent or buy real estate, and to get credit. Personal difficulties also may arise in professional or personal relationships and with reputation in the community.

Virginia deferral program for first drug crime offenders

Virginia law provides a way for a defendant who has never before been convicted of a drug offense under the laws of Virginia, the United States or any other U.S. state; and who has not been through the program before; to avoid being found guilty of his or her first conviction of drug possession by complying with certain conditions. An eligible person is instead put on probation by the Virginia state court.

During probation, the defendant must:

  • Have a substance abuse assessment and follow through with recommended treatment and education, including paying for at least some of the programming.
  • Stay free of drugs and alcohol, and submit to chemical testing.
  • Try to find and keep a job.
  • Perform community service.

Being on probation will not stop loss of driving privileges according to applicable law as if the person had been convicted instead. However, if the conditions of probation are successfully completed, the charges will be dismissed. Otherwise, the defendant may be found guilty of the original drug charge.

Consult an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney

In Virginia, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable and skilled criminal lawyer during an investigation if possible and certainly if actually charged with a drug crime in order to learn about legal rights and to begin to develop a smart defense.