Defense Lawyer for Underage Drug Charges in Norfolk, VA
Juvenile drug crime cases are complicated. We can help
Have you been charged with a juvenile drug crime in Virginia Beach? Perhaps you have been charged with drug possession in Norfolk or drug distribution in Newport News? When this happens, you need to act fast to protect your rights. Otherwise, you could face very serious consequences, including large fines and significant juvenile detention or even jail time if you are convicted of a drug crime as a juvenile.
We know what’s at stake at Welch & Wright, PLLC. We also know exactly what to do. Our Norfolk, Virginia defense attorneys have extensive experience fighting for the rights of teenagers and other juveniles charged with drug crimes in Virginia.
Our trial lawyers thoroughly understand how the legal process works, especially in Virginia’s juvenile court system. We routinely represent clients in courtrooms throughout Virginia’s Hampton Roads area.
Understanding Virginia’s juvenile drug laws
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, someone is considered a juvenile from a legal standpoint in most cases when they are under 18 years old. So in most cases, juvenile drug charges apply to defendants 17 years old and younger. Virginia’s legal definition of a juvenile can be found in Virginia Code 16.1-228.
There are other subtle differences between drug charges that apply to adults and those that apply to juveniles in Virginia. Juvenile drug crimes are often referred to as juvenile drug offenses. Instead of being “arrested” by police, juveniles are taken into custody. And any juvenile accused of committing a drug offense in Virginia is officially called a “delinquent” by the court.
The other major difference is most drug cases involving juveniles in Virginia are handled by the state’s juvenile court system. Each district court in Virginia has its own juvenile court, which in many cases work with the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice which handles many court-related services for juveniles and runs many of the juvenile detention facilities throughout Virginia. For example, in Virginia Beach, juvenile drug charges are handled by the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which is part of the 2nd Judicial District of Virginia.
What are Virginia’s underage drug laws?
There are no specific laws that apply solely to juveniles charged with drug crimes in Virginia. Many of the same rules and regulations that apply to drug charges for adults also apply to teenagers under the age of 18. Many of these laws can be found in Virginia Code, Title 18.2, Chapter 7, Article 1, which includes a wide range of criminal charges related to drug offenses in Virginia.
What is the penalty for juvenile drug possession in Virginia?
While the penalties are technically the same for adults convicted of drug possession and juveniles found delinquent of drug possession, most courts in Virginia treat juvenile offenders differently than adults charged with drug possession. Juvenile courts are more focused on the rehabilitation of juvenile defendants.
This is especially true for first-time juvenile offenders. Instead of sentencing a juvenile to serve time in jail (or detention as it’s called in Virginia’s juvenile justice system), most judges sentence juveniles arrested and found delinquent for drug possession to a drug rehabilitation program.
However, there’s no guarantee that a Virginia juvenile judge will not sentence a teenager to serve time in a juvenile detention facility or even jail, even for a first offense. That’s why it’s critical that anyone charged with a drug crime talk to a Virginia criminal defense lawyer right away.
What are penalties for other Virginia juvenile drug charges?
Like drug possession offenses, the penalties are technically the same for drug distribution and drug trafficking for juvenile offenders in Virginia. But Virginia juvenile judges often treat teenagers taken into custody for such serious offenses differently than adults charged with such serious crimes.
But like drug possession offenses in Virginia, don’t simply assume that you or your child will not face serious consequences just because the charges involve someone under 18 years old. This is especially true if the charges involve large quantities of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances, which include heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine (“crystal meth”).
In addition, a drug conviction can have serious consequences for high school and college students enrolled as a student in a public school, college, or university in Virginia. This is especially true if the drug charge took place at the school or university. Specifically, students might be expelled from school for committing certain drug crimes, according to Virginia Code 22.1-277.08.
This is why it’s important to have an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney handling your case who understands how the state’s juvenile justice system works. Otherwise, you or your child might be tried in an adult court, sentenced to significant jail time, and ordered to pay large fines.
Can I get my juvenile drug charge dismissed?
Yes. In some cases, you may be able to have your drug charges dismissed in Virginia. And even if you are found delinquent of a misdemeanor drug offense in Virginia, your criminal record can be destroyed (expunged) once you turn 19 years and at least 5 years have passed since your final court hearing.
However, a juvenile found delinquent of a felony drug offense cannot have their criminal record expunged or destroyed. Any juvenile found guilty of a felony drug offense in Virginia will have that conviction on their criminal record for life.
This is why you should do everything you can to have your juvenile drug charge dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor in Virginia. Otherwise, your criminal conviction could follow you for the rest of your life and can have an impact on job applications and other important milestones.
Common juvenile drug charge defenses
There are many different ways an experienced criminal defense attorney can successfully defend a juvenile arrested and charged with a drug crime. Such legal strategies often involve your defense attorney proving:
- There was an unlawful search and seizure that resulted in the arrest.
- There was police misconduct during the arrest, including failure to read the juvenile his or her Miranda rights during the arrest.
- The drugs involved in the arrest did not belong to the person arrested.
- The quantity of drugs seized in the arrest was less than the amount claimed by police.
- The classification of the drugs seized in the arrest was incorrect, which can result in less severe penalties depending on the official classification of the controlled substance.
You have rights. We can fight for them
Juvenile drug cases in Virginia can be extremely complicated. There are distinct differences in Virginia between juvenile criminal cases and similar ones involving adults. Even different jurisdictions in Virginia can have subtle differences from one court system to another.
Our highly skilled, Norfolk drug crime defense attorneys at Welch & Wright, PLLC can help you every step of the way. We have extensive courtroom experience in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. As a result, we know how the legal system works in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and other Virginia communities.
Put your trust in a law firm that puts your needs first. Contact us to learn more about your legal options. Schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Norfolk, VA drug charge defense lawyers today.