Drug charges are serious matters that carry heavy consequences. The exact penalties depend on many factors, but even the most minor drug offense penalties can affect someone for a long time. Tennessee categorizes drug-related crimes into five groups:
· Simple possession
· Possession with intent
· Sale of a controlled substance
· Drug manufacturing
· Drug trafficking
Simple possession is the possession of a controlled substance in an amount too small to be considered a felony. The amount that classifies the conviction as "simple possession" will depend on the substance itself. Different drugs have different possession thresholds. Simple possession of a drug is considered a class A misdemeanor and, even though it is the least severe drug crime in Tennessee, it can still carry penalties of $2,500 fines and up to a year in jail. Simple possession can be charged as a felony if the offender has a previous possession charge on their record already.
Possession with intent is the possession of a controlled substance in amounts too large to be likely intended for personal use. The reason it is called "with intent" is because the amount implies that the possessor has intent to sell the substance. Possession with intent is a felony.
Sale of a controlled substance is usually charged when an officer actually witnesses a drug sale. Like possession with intent, sales are a felony, though the penalties depend heavily on the type of drug, how much was sold, and how many prior offenses (if any) the person has on their record.
Drug manufacturing refers to the production of controlled substances, such as manufacturing meth or growing marijuana. It is also a felony, with consequences that can go beyond jail time and fines. A person can be charged with manufacturing whether they produced drugs for their own personal use or to sell the substance.
Drug trafficking, sometimes called drug conspiracy, is charged when someone is suspected for being involved in any part of the production, distribution, transportation or sales process of controlled substances. There are mandatory minimum penalties in place for drug trafficking, so a judge may never order a sentence that is less severe than the required minimum. Those charged with drug trafficking face large fines, jail time, and long probation periods.
What are the consequences?
Though a first-time offense of simple possession is technically the least severe of the five drug crimes in Tennessee, it is still a serious legal issue with consequences of jail time and large fines. Other Tennessee drug crimes can have the following consequences:
· At least one year in jail
· Fines of at least $2,500
· Community service
· Drug education classes
· Revocation of driver's license
· Long-term impact on right to vote
· Long-term impact on right to own firearms
· Exclusion from certain employment opportunities
· Drug crime registered on criminal record
Drug crimes are not taken lightly. A drug crime on your record can affect you for years to come. If you have been convicted of a drug crime, an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can review your case and fight for your rights in court.