A broad range of drugs and medications are controlled and regulated by both state and federal laws. A person that is below the age of 18 and knowingly controls a regulated drug or substance without a legal reason can be charged with drug possession. Juveniles are often charged with this crime because they possess marijuana or other similar illegal drugs, possessing prescription drugs without a prescription is also placed under drug possession charge. For a juvenile to be convicted of possessing drugs, a prosecutor does not have to prove that the juvenile was actually holding the drugs, or had them in a pocket or somewhere else on his/her body. It’s enough for a prosecutor to show that the juvenile had authority over the area where the drugs were found. For example, juveniles who have illegal substances located in their rooms or other areas over which they have authority over can be charged with this crime. In the state of Virginia, courts handle juvenile criminal cases differently from adult criminal cases. The courts have more liberty in handling these cases and often try to look for treatment options and counseling as opposed to more severe punishments.
Penalties in Virginia
When a juvenile is convicted with a drug possession violation, that juvenile faces some potentially serious consequences. However, the juvenile justice process is different than the criminal justice process. Even though the crime is the same for juveniles and adults, the way the courts handle a juvenile case is very different.
Juvenile courts have a much broader range of options when dealing with a juvenile offender than they would if the offender had been over the age of 18. The following are some penalties a juvenile in Virginia can face for a possession charge:
- Drug counseling. Juvenile courts usually concentrate on rehabilitating minors. A juvenile court can order the juvenile offender, as well as his/her parents, to attend drug counseling for the sake of rehabilitating the minor;
- Probation. Minors can also be placed on probation for drug possession. When a court rules probation, it orders the juvenile to comply with a couple of specific terms. For example, the court will likely order the child to attend school regularly, find a job if the teen is old enough, participate in drug counseling, perform community service, or other requirements. Juvenile probation usually lasts at least six months, but longer terms are also possible depending on the case;
- Diversion. Diversion is also a common penalty for juvenile drug possession offenders. A juvenile on diversion must abide by specific court rules. The juvenile can comply with the diversion orders without having to go before the juvenile court. If the juvenile successfully finishes the diversion program, the charges are dismissed.
- Detention. It is unlikely for a court in Virginia to order a juvenile into detention for drug possession. Detention can involve house arrest, placement with a foster family, or placement in a juvenile detention center. Drug possession cases do not usually result in detention unless the juvenile is a repeat offender or other crimes occurred, such as if the drug possession occurred as the result of a robbery or any other crime.