Being charged with a first time possession of Marijuana or any other controlled substance in Virginia can be a frightening experience, and learning that there is a clear route to avoiding a felony or misdemeanor conviction is comforting to many.
My colleague, Brian Drummond, posted earlier about First Offender Treatment in Virginia under 18.2-251 (commonly referred to as a 251 Disposition), however, a 251 Disposition is not for everyone and can be extremely harmful in some situations.
These are some of the reasons you should never enter in to a 251 disposition without capable legal representation:
- The 251 Disposition Carries Serious Immigration Consequences
Federal immigration law considers the Virginia's 251 disposition tantamount to a guilty plea and conviction, therefore entering into a 251 disposition may cause severe immigration consequences including inadmissibility to the United States, denial or revocation of your Visa or Legal Permanent Resident (green card) status, and even deportation. Due to the potential for severe immigration consequence resulting from drug offences, including marijuana possession, it is especially important that noncitizens contact qualified legal counsel if they are accused of possession of any controlled substance.
- Record of arrest cannot be expunged
While many believe that a 251 disposition can be expunged or removed permanently from their criminal record after a period of time has passed, this is unfortunately untrue. Under current Virginia law, cases entering a diversion program such as a 251 disposition are ineligible for expungement and remain visible to the public even after the charge has been ultimately dismissed. This means that future employers, schools, and even family can see that you were arrested for drug possession by a simple search of the Internet. At Whitestone Young we are often able to secure alternative resolutions to the 251 program, leaving the charge eligible for expungement.
- Probation With Conditions
Upon entering a 251 disposition you will be ordered to perform between 24 and 100 hours of community service, complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) drug program and any recommended treatment, submit to random drug testing, and be of general good behavior, which includes no new violations of law, for 12 month. As a condition of the entering the program you must agree that a failure to abide by any of these conditions can result in a conviction for the drug offense without the opportunity defend the underlying charge. If you are not ready to give up drug use the 251 program is not right for you and may increase the possibility of jail time.
- Loss of drivers license
Upon entering a 251 disposition your license will be suspended for a period of 6 months. Driving during this period can result in additional criminal charges as well as the risk of losing the 251 disposition and becoming convicted of the drug offense. It is possibly to obtain a restricted drivers license that is limited to driving for work and school only.
- There May Be Defenses To Your Case
For most clients the biggest reason to stop and speak with an attorney before entering a 251 disposition is that there could be a legal defense to your case. As an attorney at Whitestone Young P.C., I am often frustrated by stories of individuals charged with possession of a controlled substance who enter into 251 dispositions unaware that there were defenses available in their cases.
If you or someone you know is facing a first time possession of a controlled substance please contact me by email to discuss your case. I am happy to answer any questions you might have or set up a free consultation.