What Can I Expect if My Teen is Arrested for Smoking Pot?
While recreational marijuana appears to be sweeping the nation, in Virginia, the drug remains very much illegal. Teenagers who are caught with marijuana in their possession, whether they were imbibing at the time or not, can expect some type of punishment. As a parent, you should learn what to anticipate from the juvenile court system, including the worst and best case scenarios for your adolescent son or daughter. Your child may be able to entirely avoid juvenile detention for a first-time offense. However, if the court determines your child should be treated as an adult, he or she may face some jail time. In addition to the statutory punishments for your teen, there are a number of collateral consequences to being caught with pot. You should be prepared for these as well.
Marijuana Offenses in Virginia
It is a crime in Virginia to possess, use, manufacture, distribute, or sell marijuana. However, luckily for your teen, Virginia law looks at marijuana differently than other Schedule I drugs. Normally, possessing a Schedule I drug is a felony offense, but possessing a small amount a marijuana without any attempt to distribute is a misdemeanor. For a first-time offense, possession of marijuana can result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A second marijuana possession offense may lead to up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Understanding the Juvenile Court Process
If your son or daughter is under 18 years old, then the case will go through the juvenile court system. This is a very different process than an adult criminal court system, though your child should have legal representation all the same. Within the juvenile system, you will not hear your child discussed as the defendant who allegedly committed a crime and must go through a trial to be found innocent or guilty. Instead, your child will be entered into the juvenile system upon being taken into custody and then have an intake officer determine if informal or formal action is needed. For a first-time marijuana offense, informal or formal action can be taken. Informal action may be a diversion program, which can include educational, rehabilitation, and community service elements. It will not result in a conviction or criminal record.
If formal action is required, the intake officer files a petition and determines if detention is necessary. If your child is detained, there will be a detention hearing held within 72 hours. Next, your child goes through an adjudicatory hearing where he or she may be found delinquent, a status offender, a child in need of supervision, or a child in need of services. When the offense is possession of marijuana, the issue will be whether your child is found delinquent or not. This is your child’s trial. He or she should have legal representation.
Upon a finding of delinquency due to possessing marijuana, your teen will have a disposition hearing to determine appropriate sanctions, which could include detention, fines, a license suspension, community service, rehabilitation, or educational programs.
There are many collateral consequences to a juvenile marijuana possession offense. This could make it more difficult for your teenager to get a job, get into the college of his or her choice, and receive federal aid or scholarships. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Juvenile records for misdemeanor offenses are expunged 5 years after the offense is committed or after your child turns 19, whichever is later.
Contact Us Today
If you son or daughter was caught smoking pot and is now part of the juvenile court system, contact the Leesburg criminal defense attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC right away. We can explain the process to you thoroughly and will strive to obtain your child the best possible results in his or her situation.