What Must Virginia Prove for a Conviction of Marijuana?

It's often assumed that if you are charged with possession of marijuana, then you will be convicted.  But before you go to court without an attorney and plead guilty, here are a couple of things that you need to consider first:

Can they prove it was actually marijuana?

To convict you, the Commonwealth must prove that the substance found was actually marijuana.  To do this, they often employ two types of chemical tests.

The first test often used is the “field test.”  This is a device in which the officer (on the scene) can place a portion of the substance found into to produce a chemical reaction. If the chemical reaction results in a particular color, the Commonwealth will argue it proves the substance is marijuana.These second test involves sending the substance to the state lab for forensic chemical testing.  Both testing methods require the Commonwealth to prove that law enforcement followed specific rules to ensure accurate testing results.

The Commonwealth must also prove the substance is marijuana with live testimony in court. Your criminal defense attorney must review the testing methods and witnesses to see if they were legally sufficient.

Can they prove that you were aware of the marijuana’s “presence and character?” 

The second thing the Commonwealth must prove is that you were aware of its presence and character” and it was under your “dominion and control.” Stated another way, it must proved that you that the marijuana was there and that it was yours.

The way the Commonwealth proves this is by demonstrating how close you were to the marijuana, any admissions you may have made, as well as circumstantial evidence such as you trying to hide the marijuana. This is a very fact specific analysis and defense counsel must be fully informed of all of the facts to determine if the Commonwealth will have enough evidence to prove guilt.

Did they obtain the evidence against you legally? 

Marijuana cases often intersect with constitutional issues.  In many cases, law enforcement find the drugs due to searches and use interrogation tactics to obtain the necessary evidence to convict. Therefore, defense counsel must review is how law enforcement came to find the substance and what discussions they had with you.   

Many times, intentionally or not, law enforcement will violate your constitutional rights. However, those violations only matter if defense counsel raises proper objections before or at trial.

While this is not an exhaustive review of all facts that must be proven by the Commonwealth, it is a general overview of basics that must be proven in court. For more answers, pick up the phone and call BenGlassLaw today at (703)584-7277.

Related Question: What if the marijuana found wasn't mine?

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