This is the next post in my series on what visitors to Virginia need to know about marijuana laws. My last post discussed how search and seizure laws impact marijuana possession cases. In this post, I will be addressing a large group of persons living in Virginia who generally are not natives from our state- the men and women actively serving on our military bases. For these men and women, if you are arrested for marijuana possession then you may face both civilian and military punishment.
The civilian court process does not change for Virginia-stationed military members who are charged with marijuana possession
The process is the same as it would be for a civilian when a military member is arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. The military member is arrested and eligible to pay a set amount of bail if the amount of marijuana in question is small. Military members have the option of hiring their own private attorney or utilizing the public defender to handle the civilian criminal charge. Armed services personnel may also contact their commanding officer for assistance in arranging a defense. For first time offenders found with less than half an ounce of marijuana, the charge will be a misdemeanor. If one pleads or is found guilty the penalties include a fine of up $500, loss of a driver’s license, and a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. If the military person wishes to fight the charge then their attorney will advise them on the strength of their case and determine if the arresting officer violated protocol during the arrest.
The military will assign disciplinary action independently of the civilian court’s decision
In some respects, the civilian court is the least of a military person’s worries if they are arrested for marijuana possession. The US military has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and will take swift and harsh action against those members who are arrested for a drug and alcohol related offense- even if the offense occurs off base. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, personnel can be prosecuted under Article 112a for marijuana use, possession, or distribution. A civilian arrest alone may be enough for the base to remove privileges. If the military member tests positive for drugs, they may be subject to an array of punishments including dishonorable discharge, loss of pension, rank reduction, loss of security clearances, and monetary fines. In some instances the military person may be court martialed and can face imprisonment- even if they are found not guilty in civilian court.
If you are a military member and are arrested off base for marijuana possession, it is important that you contact an attorney who also has experience working with military members. Your military career can be effected by your civilian case. Contact JD Garrett’s office today if you require legal services.