Drug Crime Defense Lawyer in West Virginia
If you are facing a drug charge in West Virginia, the deck is stacked against you. Law enforcement continues to ride a wave of political pressure to bring drug offenders to justice – which they see as nothing short of the maximum possible sentence available under the law. Unfortunately, West Virginia drug law gives them plenty of options.
Hiring an effective legal defense team to tackle the allegations on your behalf is critical if you want to protect you future by invoking your rights. The Criminal Defense Firm has legally represented numerous drug defendants across the country, including right here in the state of West Virginia. With their vigorous advocacy, defendants have secured case dismissals and jury acquittals, as well as favorable outcomes in cases that could not be won outright.
The Different Types of Drugs Under Federal and West Virginia Law
In order for you to face legal repercussions, the substance that you handle must be controlled by state or federal law. Both West Virginia and federal drug law define controlled substances as drugs or other chemical substances that are regulated by law. They both classify controlled substances into five “schedules” that are based on:
- How addictive they can be
- Whether they can be abused
- Their accepted medicinal use in the United States
Schedule I has the most dangerous substances, while Schedule V has the least.
The federal drug law is the Controlled Substances Act and its implementing regulations, which lists the schedules and the drugs in them (21 C.F.R. §§ 1308.11 through 1308.15). West Virginia’s state drug schedules are found at West Virginia Code § 60A-2-201 and largely mirror the federal version.
Some examples of the controlled substances on these lists are:
- Anabolic steroids
- Cough syrups with more than a minimal amount of codeine
Some of these substances, particularly those in Schedules I and II, are illegal and have no lawful use. Others have medicinal value and can be obtained, but only with a valid prescription.
A Wide Spectrum of Drug Offenses
Both state and federal law also regulate all aspects of the drug trade, spanning the entire lifetime of the substance, from its creation, cultivation, or synthesis all the way down to its consumption. This includes a drug’s possession, sale or other transactions, its transportation, and its distribution.
At any point in this process, there is a criminal offense for unlawful activity. In West Virginia, these charges can include:
- Unlawful cultivation
- Illegal drug importation
- Drug manufacturing
- Internet drug trafficking
- Drug trafficking
- Drug possession with the intent to distribute
- Drug delivery causing death
- Drug possession
- Conspiracy to sell drugs
- Prescription drug crimes
- Healthcare fraud involving prescription drugs
Some of these offenses sound like they would generally be carried out by a stereotypical drug dealer, gang, or cartel. Others, however, are far more likely to be committed by a healthcare professional like a:
- Drug salesperson
This is especially true considering the political pressure to hold healthcare professionals accountable for the fallout from the opioid epidemic, which hit West Virginia particularly hard.
Regardless of your occupation, a conviction for a drug offense can carry a wide variety of penalties. Some, like mere possession for personal use, are fairly minor and rarely lead to jail time. Others are felony offenses that carry decades behind bars, particular for repeat offenders.
Penalties of a Conviction for a Drug Crime in West Virginia
Because there are so many different types of drug offenses in West Virginia, there are also a wide variety of penalties that can be on the table. However, the potential penalties will largely depend on five different factors, some of which are interrelated:
- The nature of the drug offense
- The type of controlled substance found
- How much of it was found
- Your criminal history
- The presence of any aggravating factors
1. Nature of the Offense
Possibly the most important factor in the potential penalties is the specific charge against you. It is not surprising that drug possession tends to carry lighter penalties than drug delivery causing death (West Virginia Code § 60A-4-416).
However, this can depend on several of the other factors. For example, the possession of drugs over a threshold amount will almost certainly turn the offense into one for possession with an intent to sell. Even the same criminal offense, like drug manufacturing, can carry different penalties depending on the type of substance being manufactured.
2. Type of Drugs
The type of drugs found can also alter the penalties that you can face if you get convicted in West Virginia. For example, West Virginia Code § 60A-4-401(a)(i) covers possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. If the substance is a Schedule I and II narcotic drug or methamphetamine, a conviction carries:
- 1 year to 15 years in prison, and
- Up to $25,000 in fines.
However, if the substance is fentanyl, the penalties for a conviction increase to:
- 3 years to 15 years in prison, and
- Up to $50,000 in fines.
The criminal offense is the same. The only thing that changed is the substance.
3. Amount of Drugs
How much of the substance there is can also alter the penalties of a conviction. The most prominent way for this to happen is if there was more of the drug than necessary for personal use. West Virginia law enforcement officers will argue that this implies that you intended to sell the drugs, which drastically alters the case from mere possession to possession with intent to sell. However, some substances, like codeine, move from one Schedule to another if they reach a threshold amount.
4. Your Criminal Background
Many drug offenses are priorable, meaning the penalties increase for subsequent convictions. If you have a serious drug conviction on your criminal background, the penalties for another conviction can increase dramatically.
5. Aggravating Factors
There are a litany of other factors that can enhance the sentence, like possessing drugs in a school zone, or lead to additional criminal charges, like possessing an unlawful firearm.
Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Defense in West Virginia and The Criminal Defense Firm
What are Some Legal Defenses to Raise in a Drug Case?
Every drug offense is unique, so there is no one defense strategy that will work for all of them. However, some of the most common drug defense strategies that The Criminal Defense Firm has used in the past include:
- Entrapment, which argues that law enforcement agents coerced you into committing a crime that you would not have committed, otherwise,
- Illegal search, which claims that law enforcement violated your civil rights during the investigation of the drug crime and that the fruits of that search should be excluded from your trial,
- Lack of intent, which argues that you did not have the necessary mental state to commit an element of the offense, and
- Lack of knowledge, which claims that you did not know about the drugs or that they were illegal.
The specific facts of your case will determine which defense is the most likely to be successful.
What is West Virginia's Law Regarding Marijuana?
West Virginia passed a law legalizing marijuana for medicinal use in 2017. If you have a medical marijuana card, you can legally possess the drug in certain circumstances. In spite of this, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under state and federal law. Possession of marijuana is still a crime that carries between 90 days and 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. First offenses involving less than 15 grams may lead to conditional discharge or probation.
Why Should I Hire You?
The Criminal Defense Firm is one of the few law firms in the country, let alone West Virginia, that only employs senior-level defense attorneys. This means you get access to lawyers who have decades of experience working the defense bar. It also means that all of your legal representation will be conducted by these experienced attorneys. Unlike other law firms, we will not draw you to our firm with the skills and experience of our senior lawyers and then put a junior associate and a paralegal on your case.
Why Doesn't The Criminal Defense Firm Call Itself the Best in West Virginia for Drug Defense?
Because that is something that we prefer to let the testimonials of our prior clients say about us. It means more when it comes from them, anyway.
The Criminal Defense Firm: Drug Crime Defense in West Virginia
The criminal defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm have legally represented drug defendants throughout West Virginia. With our savvy defense strategies, vigorous trial advocacy, and exceptional understanding of drug law and its enforcement, we have secured a wide variety of successes both inside and outside of the courtroom in drug cases.
Contact us online or call The Criminal Defense Firm at (866) 603-4540 for legal help in West Virginia.