251 Disposition: a First Offender's Ally

No matter how hard we try, no one can be perfect. Naturally, we are all going to make mistakes in our lifetimes. But when a first-time offender breaks the law, it only seems fair that some weight should be given to the fact that the defendant has stayed out of trouble up to that point in his or her life. Essentially, that is the rationale behind a 251 Disposition. A 251 Disposition is a type of deferred disposition that can benefit certain first-time offenders and is summarized below.

Significance of a 251 Disposition

The benefit that a 251 Disposition confers upon an individual facing a drug possession charge is significant. A 251 Disposition gives the court the power to hold off on entering a guilty verdict by placing the defendant on probation subject to certain terms and conditions. If the defendant complies with all terms and conditions, the court will dismiss the charge. The charge, however, cannot be expunged from the defendant’s record.

Eligibility Requirements

A 251 Disposition is not available for all criminal defendants. In fact, the type of criminal defendant that can take advantage of a 251 Disposition is quite narrow, as there are certain eligibility requirements that must first be met. The requirements are set out below:

  • The defendant must be a first offender;
  • Must not have a previous conviction or convictions for violating any federal or state statute relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drugs.
  • Must not have had a previous drug possession charge dismissed under a 251 Disposition.
  • Must be charged with possession of a controlled substance or possession of marijuana; and
  • The defendant must plead guilty or the court must find that the facts would justify a finding of guilt.

Terms and Conditions

There are a variety of terms and conditions that the court can impose upon a defendant who is eligible for a 251 Disposition. Some examples include:

  • participation in treatment or an educational program;
  • refraining from drug and alcohol use;
  • taking drug and alcohol tests;
  • seeking employment and/or maintaining employment;
  • perform at least 100 hours of community service for a felony;
  • perform up to 24 hours of community service for a misdemeanor.

A mandatory condition is that the court must suspend the defendant’s privilege to drive for six months from the date of being placed on probation. However, under certain circumstances, the court can issue a restricted license to allow the defendant to travel by vehicle for reasons found in 18.2-271.1(E) of the Code of Virginia.

It is extremely important for the defendant to comply with all the terms and conditions mandated under the 251 Disposition because violation of a term or condition will result in the court finding the defendant guilty.

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