Drug Crimes Law
Drug Offenses are very serious in Tennessee and can carry mandatory jail time for certain types of drug offenses, even if it is you First Offense. For example, any possession of marijuana greater than ½ an ounce can be a felony and is punishable as a minimum one (1) year in jail. Thus, it is important to take a possession charge very serious and to hire a knowledgeable and reliable criminal drug crimes attorney. Amanda J. Gentry specializes in drug-related charges including distribution, possession, possession with intent to sell, and drug trafficking. She is ready to defend you and protect your right to a fair trial and serve as your legal counsel when you need answers to difficult questions.Determining Illegal Drugs
Have you ever wondered how a drug becomes illegal? The power to schedule dangerous drugs is given to the commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services. The commissioner may add substance to or delete or reschedule all substances enumerated under § 39-17-403 after considering the following:
- The actual or relative potential for abuse;
- The scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known;
- The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance;
- The history and current pattern of abuse;
- The scope, duration and significance of abuse;
- The risk to the public health;
- The potential of the substance to produce psychic or physiological dependence liability; and
- Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this section.
Although the federal government classifies controlled substances into their specific schedules, many states, including Tennessee, adopt them in general but often adjust the scheduling of drugs. In Tennessee, sale of a controlled substance is a felony regardless of the amount of drug being sold. Thus, a law enforcement officer typically directly observes a drug being sold or the sales involved a confidential informant or undercover officer. Generally, the sentence is determined by the type and amount of drug(s) involved and the number of prior felonies. To see a full list of which drugs fall in each schedule and the penalties associated, click here.
Schedule I drugs include drugs that are considered to be the most dangerous. The criteria under § 39-17-405, is (1) high potential for abuse; and (2) no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. Some drugs included under Schedule I are heroin and psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. Interestingly, the federal government also still classifies marijuana and other THC-based substances under Schedule I, while Tennessee and many other states have a more modern view.
Schedule II drugs include substances (1) with high potential for abuse; (2) currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions; and (3) the abuse of the substance may lead to severe psychic or physical dependence. In Tennessee, these drugs include opiates/opioids (aka narcotics), cocaine, morphine, and methadone.
Schedule III drugs are generally considered less dangerous, but still have a moderate risk of abuse. These substances include anabolic steroids, testosterone, ketamine and some depressants.
Schedule IV drugs have a slight risk of dependency and have numerous legitimate medical applications. These substances include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and other benzodiazepines/ sedatives
Schedule V drugs have a very low risk of dependency and include substances like Tylenol with Codeine.
Schedule VI drugs have a low risk of physical dependency in contrast with many other drugs. These drugs include marijuana and synthetic equivalents.
Schedule VII drugs includes only butyl nitrate, which has been known by many different names including poppers, locker room rush, etc.Drug Charges
- Simple Possession means you were arrested for a small amount of a controlled substance, typically less than .5 grams. This is a Class A misdemeanor, which may result in jail time up to eleven (11) months, twenty-nine (29) days and a fine up to $2,500. However, a second offense or greater may face a Class E felony, carrying a potential sentence up to six (6) years and a fine of up to $3,000.
Possession with Intent (Intent to sell or Distribute)
- Possession with Intent means that the possession of a certain drug is for more than recreational use, such as to sell the drug. Possession with intent of ½ ounce to 10 lbs. is a Class E Felony, carrying a potential one (1) to six (6) years. The possession of items like bags or other containers used to package drugs, scales to weigh drugs, large quantities of money, etc., can contribute to the elevated charge. However, do not panic, possession of any of these items does not mean that you are presumed guilty; the State of Tennessee must still prove that the possession of the drugs was with the intent to sell or distribute beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Drug trafficking charges can result in life-altering consequences. There is a set of mandatory-minimum penalties for people convicted of drug trafficking such that judges are not allowed to sentence a person less than what is established by the federal government. Aggravating factors may increase the harshness of the sentence such as being arrested within a certain radius of a children’s playground or school or transporting narcotics across state lines may result in stiffer penalties.
- In reality, conspiracy charges are often used to enhance charges and increase legal penalties. With a conspiracy charge, multiple individual cases can be consolidated into a single case which can cause challenges to the defense for each defendant.