What is a Section 251 Disposition?

Many people ask whether Virginia has a sentencing alternative similar to a SIS (suspended imposition of sentence) or a PBJ (probation before judgment) where the accused is placed on probation and has the opportunity to have the charge dismissed at a later date. Virginia does have such a program for drug possession charges (and only possession)- both felony and misdemeanor. Virginia Code section 18.2-251 allows the defendant to be placed on probation. If the accused successfully completes probation, community service hours, a drug education or treatment program, and remains of good behavior, the drug possession charge can be dismissed. However, in felony cases the probation period is usually two years and there will be a six month license suspension. Moreover, even if the charge is dismissed, it will remain on the criminal record of the accused, but will be marked as "dismissed." Such a dismissal cannot be expunged from a criminal record. This type of disposition is not available for possession with intent to distribute or distribution charges.