Possession with Intent to Distribute

Possession with intent to distribute is a serious offense and can carry stiff penalties in Virginia. See Virginia Code Sections 18.2-248 and 18.2-248.1. Depending on your case, you may face mandatory jail time.

Are there specific quantities of drugs that will automatically qualify me for an Intent to Distribute charge?

No! While you are more likely to get a simple possession charge if a small amount is involved, you can still be charged with intent to distribute based on other factors noted below.

What factors do Virginia courts look at when considering whether I had intent to distribute?

Virginia courts have looked at a number of factors when determining intent, including:

  • Quantity. Although quantity alone is not always determinative of intent, it is a very important factor. The Commonwealth Attorney may point to larger amounts of a substance as indicative of the intent to distribute.
  • Packaging. Specific to the type of drug, the manner in which it was packaged could be considered to be a “distributable form” of packaging.
  • Presence or absence of drug paraphernalia for personal use. An absence of drug paraphernalia for personal use, such as needles or a bong, can indicate an intent to distribute.
  • Paraphernalia consistent with distribution. This can include scales, baggie corners, twist ties, or razor blades.
  • A large amount of money. An unusual amount of money may suggest profit from sales of the controlled substance.

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What if I didn’t intend to profit?

Distributing without the intent to profit, or “gifting,” is also charged under the same sections of the Virginia code. Whether you intended to profit or not, you can still be convicted of possession with intent to distribute.

Marijuana. If you possessed marijuana intending to give it to a friend free of charge, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor (a jail term of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500). If you possessed marijuana intending to give it to an inmate at a state or local correctional facility free of charge, you would be charged with a Class 4 felony (imprisonment of 2-10 years and a fine of up to $100,000).

Controlled substance. Possession of a controlled substance (i.e., other than marijuana) with intent to distribute but without the intent to profit is a Class 5 felony. This is punishable by imprisonment of 1-10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, a jail term of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.

What are the penalties for possession with intent to distribute in Virginia?

Possession of less than 1/2 ounce of marijuana with intent to sell or distribute is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of no more than one year and a fine of no more than $2500.

Possession of more than 1/2 ounce and up to 5 pounds of marijuana with intent to sell or distribute is a Class 5 felony punishable by imprisonment of 1 to 10 years, or a jail term of no more than one year and a fine of no more than $2500.

Possession of more than 5 pounds of marijuana with intent to sell or distribute is a felony punishable by imprisonment of 5 to 30 years.

Possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute is a felony punishable by 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. For more information on drug schedules, see our post here.

Possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute is a felony punishable by 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

What should I do if I am charged with intent to distribute?

If charged, you should seek a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An effective criminal defense attorney can build a strong defense strategy that fits your unique circumstances. Don’t wait or you may lose the ability to preserve your best defense opportunities.

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