If you’ve never been convicted of a drug offense before, and find yourself to be charged with a first time simple possession of marijuana, you are eligible for a “deferred finding.” This concept is when either you plead not guilty or you enter a plea (of guilty or no contest) and a judge finds enough facts to convict, but withholds a finding of guilt, so no conviction is entered. Rather, the judge “defers” the case for a period of time (usually one year).
During that deferred period, you are placed on probation and required to complete certain terms such as a drug treatment course, abstain from drugs and alcohol, maintain employment, and complete community service. If at the end of that time, you’ve complied with probation, the case is dismissed.
The deferred finding can be a great option. This is particularly so when there is a strong likelihood that you would be convicted of your charge if you went to trial on the matter because it allows an avenue to avoid conviction.
However, a deferred finding is not always the best option. In instances where there are strong defenses, you must consider the downside of a deferred finding. First, a deferred finding marijuana charge is not expungeable. That means your record of arrest will always be on your criminal record.
For those non-citizens, a deferred finding may be treated as a conviction in the immigration context. (Note: for non-citizens, you must ALWAYS inform your attorney of your non-citizen status because any criminal conviction can have an effect on your ability to stay in the country and/or obtain citizenship.)
Also, keep in mind that, to obtain a deferred finding, your privilege to operate a vehicle within the Commonwealth will be suspended for six months. While you may be able to obtain a restricted license, it is a very limited license and a violation of its terms could lead to additional criminal liability.
Obviously, this is not the full extent of the pros and cons of deferred findings in Virginia. For more questions, feel free to contact BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277.