Charleston, West Virginia Drug Crime Defense Lawyer

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Drug Crime Defense Attorney in Charleston, West Virginia

Brian Kuester
Attorney Brian Kuester
Charleston Drug Crime Defense Team Lead
Former US Attorney
Former District Attorney
Ellen Comley
Attorney Ellen Comley
Defense Team Lead
Senior Counsel
Roger Bach
Roger Bach
Team Consultant
Former Special Agent (OIG)

Drug offenses are among the most common type of criminal charge that you can face in Charleston, West Virginia. Depending on the nature of these drug charges and the type and amount of controlled substance at issue, the penalties of a conviction can be steep, up to and including over a decade in prison.

The Criminal Defense Firm has experienced defense lawyers who have handled hundreds of drug offenses. Many of our attorneys have also prosecuted these same offenses in federal court, giving them an intimate understanding of how these cases are investigated – as well as how they can be beaten. They have a long track record of successful defenses in drug cases, including numerous case dismissals, jury acquittals, and other favorable outcomes.

Numerous Drug Offenses in Charleston

Both state law in West Virginia and federal law regulate the drug trade. It covers both illegal drugs, like cocaine, as well as medicinal drugs that pose a risk of dependency, like Oxycodone, and medical drugs that can be used to create illegal ones, like cough syrup that contains codeine.

This widespread regulatory scheme covers all aspects of drug use, from its creation down to its final consumption, including:

  • Manufacture or cultivation
  • Distribution
  • Sale
  • Possession

At each of these stages, unlawful conduct can lead to a criminal charge for:

While some of these offenses can be relatively minor, like drug possession of trace amounts of marijuana, others can be felony-level offenses.

Note also that some of these offenses are far more likely to be committed by a healthcare professional than an international drug cartel, manufacturer, or local drug dealer. Especially in the wake of the opioid epidemic, which devastated Charleston and other areas of West Virginia, people in the following occupations are increasingly being targeted by state and federal law enforcement agents for drug offenses:

  • Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Nurses
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Mental health professionals, like psychotherapists
  • Drug salespeople

The Five Schedules of Controlled Substances

The substance you are handling must be a controlled substance in order for you to potentially face criminal allegations. Both federal and state law list the prohibited substances that are legally regulated. The federal law is the Controlled Substances Act, which divides substances into five different “schedules” in 21 C.F.R. §§ 1308.11 through 1308.15. State laws generally mirror these federal regulations, including West Virginia’s drug law, West Virginia Code § 60A-2-201.

Which schedule a substance belongs to will depend on the substance’s:

  • Potential for drug abuse,
  • Addictive properties, once it has been used, and
  • Its accepted medicinal use in the United States.

Schedule I controlled substances are the most dangerous, are highly addictive, and have no medical use. Schedule V controlled substances are the least dangerous and have a medical use.

Examples of controlled substances under West Virginia law include:

Schedule I:

  • LSD
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin
  • MDMA
  • Marijuana

Schedule II:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine

Schedule III:

  • Ketamine
  • Anabolic steroids

Schedule IV:

  • Barbital
  • Diazepam

Schedule V:

  • Cough suppressants with small amounts of codeine

Some of these controlled substances can be legal to possess if you have a valid prescription for them. Others, particularly those towards the front of the schedules, are always unlawful.

A Range of Penalties for a Drug Conviction

The penalties of a conviction for a drug crime in Charleston can be anywhere from a few months of probation all the way up to over a decade in prison. The costs of a conviction will depend on several factors. Chief among them are:

  • The specific charge you are facing
  • Whether you have prior convictions, particularly for drug crimes
  • The type of controlled substance at issue in your case
  • How much of that substance there was
  • Whether there are any aggravating factors

Each of these factors can drastically alter the penalties that are on the table in your case.

Precise Offense Being Charged

The most obvious factor in the potential penalties is the specific drug charges you are facing. Drug delivery causing death (West Virginia Code § 60A-4-416) is going to carry stiffer penalties than drug possession.

However, the other factors can change the nature of those charges, sometimes quite substantially. Drug manufacturing charges will depend on the type of drug being produced or cultivated, while Drug possession charges can turn into possession with intent to sell charges if the threshold amount is met.

Prior Convictions

Most drug offenses in Charleston, West Virginia, are priorable. This means they carry higher penalties for each time you have been convicted for them.

Additionally, first-time offenders with clean criminal histories tend to get sentenced towards the lower end of the potential prison terms. Repeat offenders are treated differently.

Type of Controlled Substance

Identical criminal charges can carry different penalties if the controlled substance at issue is a different one. A good example is possession with intent to deliver, covered by West Virginia Code § 60A-4-401(a)(i). Under this law, if the substance was a Schedule I or II narcotic or was methamphetamine, the penalties of a conviction are:

  • Up to $25,000 in fines, and/or
  • 1 to 15 years in prison.

However, if it was fentanyl, the penalties are:

  • Up to $50,000 in fines, and/or
  • 3 to 15 years in prison.

There are numerous other examples of these discrepancies under West Virginia and federal drug law.

Amount of Controlled Substance

If there are large amounts of drugs in your case, the penalties will be higher. In some cases this will be because a controlled substance, like codeine, will move into higher regulated Schedules once it reaches a certain threshold amount. In other cases, it can turn a drug possession case into a case of possession with intent to distribute.

Aggravating Factors

A bunch of other circumstances can aggravate a drug case and increase the potential penalties for a conviction, like drug possession near a school.

Some FAQs About Drug Law in Charleston, West Virginia, and the Legal Services of The Criminal Defense Firm

Is Marijuana Legal in Charleston?


West Virginia recently got on board the medical marijuana legalization train, passing Senate Bill 386 in 2017. This new law allows for limited use of marijuana in the state by people who carry medical marijuana cards.

Even though the law recognized that marijuana has a medicinal purpose, the drug is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under both state and federal law – the Schedule for the most addictive drugs that have no accepted medicinal purpose. While prosecutors and law enforcement in Charleston may have deprioritized enforcement of marijuana possession, it is still a crime that carries up to $1,000 in fines and 6 months in jail, though possession of less than 15 grams is frequently by probation or a conditional discharge.

What are Some Defense Strategies in Drug Cases?


Drug charges can be challenged in numerous ways. The right defense for your case will depend on its specific facts and circumstances.

However, The Criminal Defense Firm has used the following four defense strategies to great effect in drug cases before:


  1. Lack of intent – You lacked the required mental state to commit an element of the crime being charged
  2. Lack of knowledge – You were unaware of the drug’s presence or that it was a controlled substance
  3. Entrapment – The police coerced you into committing a drug crime that you would not have committed on your own
  4. Illegal search – The police violated your civil rights under the Fourth Amendment during the investigation and the fruits of their search should be excluded from your trial


Why Should I Hire The Criminal Defense Firm for My Drug Case?


If you have been charged with a drug offense in Charleston, you need effective and experienced legal counsel and The Criminal Defense Firm can provide that. All of our lawyers have decades of experience defending criminal suspects. Many of them also have experience investigating and prosecuting these cases in some of the largest law enforcement agencies in the federal government.

We bring that intimate understand of the legal system and its processes to your corner when you hire us.

Why Don't You Call Yourself the Best Drug Defense Firm in Charleston, WV?


Because that is something that we prefer to let our clients say about us. Many of them have left testimonials about the legal services that we provided.

The Criminal Defense Firm: Drug Crime Defense in Charleston, WV

The Criminal Defense Firm strives to help people in Charleston, West Virginia, who have been arrested and accused of committing a drug offense in the area. Our senior lawyers have a track record of successes both inside and outside of the courtroom, including numerous acquittals and dropped charges in drug cases. Even where we were not able to secure an outright victory, we have still managed to preserve our clients’ rights by advocating on their behalf during sentencing hearings and negotiating for them during plea discussions.

Call The Criminal Defense Firm at (866) 603-4540 or contact us online to get started on your case in Charleston.

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