Drug Crimes

Drug charges can range from simple possession to interstate trafficking. At Burke Law we are experienced in both misdemeanor and felony drug crime defense. It is important to not make any statements to law enforcement about what any substance found in your vehicle, home, or on your person is.

Expert testing may be required for the state to move forward with drug charges against you. The attorneys at Burke Law know how to defend drug charges and can guide you through the process to get you the best possible outcome for your drug charges.

Drug charges may be brought in Vermont State or Federal Court in the District of Vermont.

At Burke Law, we guide you through every stage of the criminal process. From arraignment to disposition, our criminal defense attorneys identify the strengths of your case and zealously advocate on your behalf. If you are charged with a crime it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


Are You Facing Drug Charges in Vermont? Burke Law Can Help.

I possessed mushrooms/ecstasy/cocaine/LSD in my dorm room and they were seized by campus security. Can I be charged with a crime?

Yes. You could face penalties at your university or college and criminal drug charges in the state of Vermont. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if your dorm room was raided or searched and you believe that illegal or controlled substances could be determined to have been in your possession.

I was driving through Vermont and was stopped for a motor vehicle offense. Vermont law enforcement searched the vehicle and located drugs. I am charged with possessing (or trafficking drugs) but I did not know they were in the vehicle. What should I do?

You should contact a Vermont attorney as soon as possible to begin your defense of any charged drug crimes. If there were other people in the vehicle or other peoples’ belongings in the vehicle and the drugs were found in those bags or belongings it may be difficult for the State of Vermont to prove that you were aware of the drugs in the vehicle or knowingly possessed or trafficked the drugs. The attorneys at Burke Law have successfully defended numerous Vermont drug crimes.

Are possession of drug crimes in Vermont misdemeanors or felonies?

In Vermont, many drug possession crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Factors that may be used by the Vermont prosecutors to determine whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony include: the amount of the drugs in your possession and whether or not the drugs were packaged for sale or personal use.


Criminal Defense – FAQ


I’ve been given a citation to criminal court. What do I do next?

You should contact an attorney for an explanation of your citation and any additional paperwork you received from law enforcement.

If you are charged with a DUI in Vermont it is exceptionally important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If you were issued a Notice of Intent to Suspend as part of your DUI then your driver’s license or privilege to operate may automatically go under suspension if you do not request a hearing within SEVEN days after your arrest.

The attorneys at Burke Law can explain what your criminal charge(s) and how to respond to any necessary paperwork to protect your license.

Burke Law advertises free consultations. What are these? How do I prepare?

Burke Law offers free 30 minute case consultations. These consultations can occur either over the phone or at either of our Vermont office locations (Burlington or White River Junction) at the choice of the client. It is useful to provide the attorney with any paperwork that you received from law enforcement at or prior to the consult. This will help us give you the most accurate information about your case. You and the attorney will discuss the allegations and sketch out a defense strategy.

What will happen at the first court date?

The first court date is your arraignment. An arraignment is a constitutional right that a defendant has to be told what his or her charge or charges are in open court. It is an opportunity to learn exactly what crime or crimes the prosecution alleges you committed and what facts may constitute those charges. At the arraignment your attorney will enter a plea on your behalf. Traditionally, the initial plea is a not guilty plea. The purpose of this plea to to keep the case moving forward so that your attorney can craft an individualized defense strategy and obtain any necessary evidence in your favor.

How many times will I have to go to court?

It depends. For simple misdemeanor cases you may never need to go to court. For example, if you live out of state or are otherwise unavailable for work or school reasons your attorney may be able to waive your appearance at your arraignment and all subsequent court hearings. Other times it may be necessary for you to appear five or more times to successfully defend your case. The attorneys at Burke Law can provide an estimate of the number of appearances required during your free consultation.

Why should I choose Burke Law?

At Burke Law we practice criminal defense throughout Vermont. It is what we do. All three of our attorneys have extensive criminal defense practice experience throughout Vermont. We work for you to craft individualized, strategic defenses to provide you with the best possible outcomes. Burke Law is unique because our attorneys have deep local experience. Our Founding Attorney, Jessica Burke, works daily in Chittenden criminal court and throughout the state on serious felony matters. She has practiced in all 14 Vermont counties and has successfully defended misdemeanors and felonies throughout the state of Vermont. Attorney Leah Henderson focuses her practice in central and southern Vermont criminal courts. Attorney Henderson has successfully defended hundreds of misdemeanor and felony cases in Windsor, Rutland, Windham, Bennington, Caledonia and Orange counties. Attorney Zachery Weight formerly worked as a public defender in Orleans criminal court and earned a reputation as a fierce trial attorney. Since joining Burke Law, Attorney Weight has focused his practice on criminal defense in Franklin, Washington, Addison, Grand Isle, Orleans, Lamoille, and Essex counties. 

Burke Law was built on criminal defense. Founding Attorney Jessica Burke practiced as a public defender in urban Virginia where she tried cases ranging from disorderly conduct to felony murder to a jury. After relocating home to Vermont, Attorney Burke started Burke Law in 2011 and defended misdemeanor and felony charges for clients in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Both Attorney Henderson and Attorney Weight began their careers in public defense in Vermont. Burke Law remains committed to values of public defense and all of our attorneys take low bono and pro bono cases as our schedules allow. 

At Burke Law open, honest and continued dialog with our clients is vital to building a strong defense and providing our clients with the best options available. 

Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of cases throughout Vermont. Each case is unique. Our substantial experience in criminal defense throughout Vermont will help you get the best outcome possible for your case.

What happens at an arraignment?

The purpose of an arraignment is to tell a defendant what they are charged with and why they are charged with it.

Arraignments Tell You What Your Charge(s) Is.

The fundamental purpose of an arraignment is to tell a defendant, in open court, what they are charged with. In other words, arraignments tell a Vermont defendant what law it is alleged that a defendant has broken.

Arraignments Tell You What Evidence The State Intends to Use Against You. 

An arraignment tells a defendant and her attorney why she is charged with the crime she is charged with. In other words, the State must disclose what facts it believes support the accusation that you committed the crime.

Arraignments Begin the Criminal Process In Vermont 

Typically an arraignment is just the beginning of the criminal process. The State presents a broad outline of the facts it believes it can establish to support a conviction of the crime charged. An experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney can develop a defense strategy to respond to the allegations made by the State prosecutor at an arraignment. 

Can I use self defense to protect myself from a criminal charge?

I was attacked by the complaining witness in a Vermont assault case, can I use self defense to protect myself?

Vermont law surrounding self defense in assault cases is complex. It is often used when someone is attacked in their home, or even in public, and then the victim attacks back at the aggressor. The aggressor may be more injured than the victim, which could result in the victim being charged with a crime. There are a variety of situations in which the defense can be used. 

Self defense is what is called an affirmative defense, meaning that it is a type of criminal defense that usually needs to be asserted once your case is already charged and there are certain threshold showings you must make to present it to a jury. The Vermont Model Jury Instructions provide a basic framework of what a defendant must show at a jury trial.  

Steps You Can Take To Help Your Self Defense Case

There are ways to help your self defense case (such as taking pictures of your injuries when they are fresh and seeking appropriate medical treatment for yourself). If there are any witnesses to you using self defense in a Vermont assault case, it may be helpful to have them give sworn statements. Working with an experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney as soon as soon as possible is a good idea in these types of cases. 

It is important to call an attorney right away to help you prepare your self defense case for assault charges in Vermont. 

What if an alleged victim is contacting me?

I was cited to court in Vermont for an assault and released on a condition that I have no contact with the alleged victim. The alleged victim of the assault is contacting me. Can I speak to the alleged victim of the assault if he or she is contacting me?

No. Absolutely not.  If you have a no contact condition it is a violation of your conditions of release for the pending assault – no matter which party initiates the contact. Violating your conditions of release in Vermont can result in new criminal charges or even being held in jail until your court date. For reference, the standard condition of release court form can be found here.

Are you saying that it doesn’t matter to the Court at all that it was the alleged victim who was contacting me?

Yes. It does not matter that the victim contacts you. You cannot have contact because you are subject to the no contact condition of release. If the alleged victim contacts you, hang up the phone. If the alleged victim approaches you, walk away. You can help your criminal defense by documenting any instances when an alleged victim contacts you after a no contact condition of release is imposed by writing down the time, place and manner of the attempted contact with you by the alleged victim.

Can a third party contact the person who I am not to have contact with to relay a message?

No. No contact means no direct contact, no phone contact, no electronic contact, and no contact through third parties.

If you are subject to a no contact order in Vermont criminal court and the person keeps attempting to initiate contact with you, let your attorney know right away.

Where do I go to criminal court in Vermont?

The Vermont criminal citation forms do not always tell defendants where the court is that they need to appear at for their arraignment. Typically, Vermont criminal defendants receive one of two forms when they are cited to court: (1) a Flash Cite or (2) a form 332 citation that is pink and about a third of a size of a whole sheet of paper.

The form will say what county the criminal court you need to appear at is in, but it often won’t give the address of the building. A list of all of the Vermont State Courts with their physical addresses can be found here.

There is a criminal court in each of the fourteen Vermont counties. The physical address for Vermont criminal courthouses are:

Addison: 7 Mahady CourtMiddleburyVT 05753

Bennington: 200 Veterans Memorial DriveBenningtonVT 05201
Caledonia: 1126 Main StSuite 1St. JohnsburyVT 05819
Chittenden: 32 Cherry St., BurlingtonVT 05401
Essex: 75 Courthouse DriveGuildhallVT 05905
Franklin: 36 Lake StreetSt. AlbansVT 05478
Grand Isle: 3677 US-2, North Hero, VT 05474
Lamoille: 154 Main StreetHyde ParkVT 05655
Orange: 5 Court StreetChelseaVT 05038
Orleans: 217 Main StreetNewportVT 05855
Rutland: 9 Merchants RowRutlandVT 05701
Washington: 255 North Main St, Suite 1BarreVT 05641
Windham: 30 Putney Road, 2nd FloorBrattleboroVT 05301
Windsor: 82 Railroad RowWhite River JunctionVT 05001
We offer free, confidential case consultations with an experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney. Contact us before your arraignment to schedule a consult in person at our Burlington or White River office.

What Are Sentencing Surcharges in Vermont Criminal Court?

Sentencing surcharges are fees imposed by the Vermont Superior Court anytime someone is convicted of a crime. The sentencing surcharges are $147 per charge plus $15% of the fine for most crimes. For DUIs the sentencing surcharges are $307 plus 15% of the fine. Grossly Negligent Operation and other some other charges carry additional sentencing surcharges.

For example, if you were convicted in Vermont Superior Criminal Court of DUI and received a $300 fine then you would be required to pay $300 (fine amount) + $307 +$45 (15% of 300) = $652. Sentencing surcharges cannot be waived in Vermont, but the Criminal Court will give you time to pay them. If they remain unpaid they can be taken out of a future tax return or sent to collections.

How Do I Find Out My Next Court Date and Time in Vermont?

The Vermont Superior Court schedules change regularly. Therefore, it is a good idea to check in with the court calendar to confirm any upcoming Vermont criminal court dates. The court calendar can be found here. You can search by clicking on the county that you have court in and then choosing the appropriate option from the drop down menu. You can search for your name using the control key and the F key.

Please note that your case will not appear on the Vermont Judiciary calendar system until after your arraignment.

What are Criminal Conditions of Release?

Criminal conditions of release are a combination of rules imposed on a defendant by the Court.

In other words, the judge outlines activities that you must do or must not do. This can occur before your arraignment, at your arraignment, or conditions of release can be modified later in the Vermont criminal process. Conditions of release are only in effect while your criminal case is pending. If you have been found guilty or pled guilty but have not been sentenced, your conditions of release remain in effect.  The standard form outlining the most common conditions of release in Vermont criminal court can be found here.

After a judge imposes conditions of release on a defendant he or she must sign a conditions of release order. The defendant’s signature is an acknowledgement that he or she understands the conditions and understands he or she must abide by them.

If a Vermont criminal defendant gets caught violating conditions of release, a new criminal charge may issue. A violation of conditions of release (or VCR as it is commonly called) can result in additional criminal charges, bail or surety being imposed by the Vermont Superior Court, or even being detained in custody until your trial.

What is probation?

Probation is a type of supervision status for defendants after they have been convicted of a crime. It may be imposed at sentencing. Sentencing is the last phase of the Vermont criminal process and occurs after you have been convicted by a jury or pled guilty to criminal charges.

If you are on probation then you are not serving a jail sentence. A jail sentence has been suspended (in other words, put on hold) that you will never have to serve unless you violate the terms of your probation. Vermont Probation is a lower level of supervision than furlough. It typically requires meeting with your probation as directed and abiding by the conditions of probation imposed on you by the Vermont criminal court at your sentencing.

If you violate the terms of your probation then a violation of probation (“VOP”) will be filed with the criminal division of the Vermont Superior Court. You will be given a date to appear before the judge to enter an admission or a denial to the alleged violation of probation. If you deny the allegation a merits hearing will be set. At a probation violation merits hearing the State prosecutor will put on evidence and a Vermont Superior Court Judge will determine whether there is a preponderance of the evidence that you violated one or more terms of your probation. If the judge finds no violation occurs then the probation violation complaint is dismissed. The person continues on probation. If the judge finds a violation, then the judge will decide whether to revoke your probation and impose some or all of the suspended portion of your sentence. Depending on the number of prior violations and the severity of the violation the judge may also issue a stern warning and continue the offender on probation.

If you a facing a violation of probation or a furlough violation in Vermont contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options and to mitigate your exposure.

Will the police officer who arrested me be at my arraignment?

It is very unlikely that the Vermont law enforcement officer who arrested you will be present at your arraignment. After you charged or cited to court for a criminal offense the State’s Attorneys Office in the county the incident is alleged to have occurred in takes over the prosecution of your criminal case. Therefore, there is no need for law enforcement to be present at your arraignment.

An arraignment, like most proceedings in Vermont criminal court, is open to the public. An arresting officer could be present at the arraignment since it is a public hearing, but there is no requirement that he or she be present. Typically, arresting officers do not appear Vermont arraignments.

What should I wear to Vermont Criminal Court?

Whether it is for an arraignment or testify as a witness it is appropriate to dress business casual or business attire to court.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is the review of the trial court’s activities for legal error. The appellate court only reviews the “record” of the lower court proceedings and will not consider new evidence. The record consists of the court reporter’s transcripts of statements by the judge, attorneys, and witnesses. Any documents or objects entered into evidence also become part of the record.

How do I get a new trial?

Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 states that:

The court on motion of a defendant may grant a new trial to the defendent if required in the interests of justice. If trial was by the court without a jury the court on motion of a defendant for a new trial may vacate the judgment if entered, take additional testimony and direct the entry of a new judgment. A motion for a new trial based on the ground of newly discovered evidence may be made only before or within two years after final judgment, but if an appeal is pending the court may grant the motion only on remand of the case. A motion for a new trial based on any other grounds shall be made within 14 days after verdict or finding of guilty or within such further time as the court may fix during the 14-day period.

What is home detention?

Home detention is a pretrial option that allows defendants that would otherwise not be released on conditions of release to be in the custody of the department of corrections while living at home.

What is 24 hour curfew?

24 hour curfew is a condition of release in Vermont that requires a defendant to reside and stay at a specific residence 24 hours a day with very limited exceptions. It is often imposed when an individual is facing serious criminal charges.

One of the benefits of a 24 hour curfew is that the defendant can be living in the community while awaiting trial even though he is facing a serious offense for which he might otherwise be incarcerated pending trial.

One of the downsides of 24 hour curfew is that because you are not in the custody of the department of corrections (as you would be if you were living at home on pretrial release pursuant to home detention) so you cannot build up jail “credit.”

Depending on your particular situation it is important to discuss the potential pros and cons of 24 hour curfew and home detention with your Vermont criminal defense attorney. 

Can I get a transcript of my criminal hearing?

Yes, criminal court proceedings are audio recorded in Vermont. We do not have a stenographer in the courtroom, but you can obtain a copy of the audio or a order a transcript of the hearing.

To obtain a transcript of a hearing in Vermont you can refer to the Vermont Judiciary website. You can also order transcripts directly from Escribers.

Contact Burke Law for A Free Case Consultation

If you have been charged with a crime, or if you have not been formally charged with crime but are party to an ongoing investigation, contact us to ensure that your rights are protected from the earliest stages of the process. We offer free consultations and will work with you to find a time that accommodates your schedule.