Bryan Porter, Commonwealth's Attorney for the City of Alexandria, has initiated a new diversion program for misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses. Effective Sept. 3, citizens charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana who successfully complete the diversion program will have their charges dismissed.
“The Virginia Code contains a first-offender statute that allows people with no prior drug convictions a chance to avoid a criminal conviction,” Porter said. “Our new program goes further than the state code in several important ways. First, generally speaking, anyone charged with a small amount of marijuana for personal use is eligible to participate, even if they have a prior criminal record. Second, participants in our diversion program are not required to pay any court costs or fines. Third, because our program does not require the court to enter a finding of guilt, a person who successfully completes our program may petition to have the charge expunged from his record. My office will liberally agree to such requests if the legal requirements for expungement are satisfied.”
The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Marijuana Diversion Program requires participants to undergo a drug screening, to comply with pretrial supervision and to complete a small amount of community service. Cases will generally be continued 6 to 9 months and then reviewed for compliance. Successful completion of the program will result in the case being dismissed.
“My duty is to seek justice for the entire community — including persons charged with offenses — and that duty requires me to implement thoughtful policies with regard to low-level and non-violent crimes,” Porter said. “My hope is that the majority of marijuana possession offenses will be diverted from the adjudication process, allowing my staff to focus on more serious crimes. I am particularly pleased that offending citizens who complete our program will be eligible for expungement and may therefore avoid the negative consequences a criminal record causes in employment, education and housing.”