Why do some drugs lead to harsher punishments? 
Photo of Attorneys T. Noel Brooks and Jesse Baez walking outside.
Photo of T. Noel Brooks and Jesse Baez

Why do some drugs lead to harsher punishments? 

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Criminal Law

Virginia takes drug crimes seriously. Those accused and convicted of possessing illegal substances can face many years behind bars, high fines, probation and license suspension. This can seriously disrupt a person’s life by preventing them access to higher education, job opportunities, loans and housing. 

There are a few factors that courts consider before charging someone with drug possession, including the quantity of an illicit drug, the intent of the drug and a suspect’s criminal history. However, another factor that is considered is the type of substance found. Some illicit drugs can hold harsher penalties than others. 

Why is this? Drugs are categorized by their use and potential abuse into schedules. Here is what you should know:

What are the 5 drug schedules?

Under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), drug schedules determine whether a drug can be used in medical fields. When a drug has a high tendency to lead to abuse and dependency, it often has fewer uses in the medical field and holds harsher punishment in possession cases. There are five schedules, here is what you should know about each:

  • Schedule V: Over-the-counter medications are often classified as a lower Schedule V drug, however, illegal possession can still lead to fines of up to $500.
  • Schedule IV: Drugs that can be bought over the counter or with a prescription are classified as Schedule IV and can hold up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines if illegally possessed. 
  • Schedule III: Substances that are mainly used in medical fields are classified as Schedule III drugs, but illegal possession of these substances can lead to a $2,500 fine and 12 months behind bars.
  • Schedule II: Very few Schedule II drugs are used for medical purposes. Because of this, any illegal possession may lead to 2-10 years behind bars and $2,500 in fines. 
  • Schedule I: Much like Schedule II drugs, any drug categorized as a Schedule I drug can lead to 2-10 years behind bars with $2,500 in fines because of how extreme these drugs are considered. 

Defendants may need to seek help to learn about their legal options if they are accused of possessing illegal substances.