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Opiates and the law: Heroin's rise in Tennessee

As you may know, the nation is in a state of crisis. Labeled as "the opioid crisis," overprescription of opiate drugs in the past has led to serious problems around the country. Once medical providers realized that patients were becoming or could potentially become addicted to opiates, they began to limit them more stringently. The problem with that is that those who were already addicted no longer had anywhere to turn to medications they needed for pain.

Instead of being able to get a legitimate prescription, some people were left struggling. That meant they had to turn to street drugs like heroin which further compounded the addiction and dependency problem.

For people addicted to heroin, criminal acts often stem from their need to obtain the drug. Many people start out taking medications for chronic pain and end up turning to the street for extra pills or drugs when they're not allowed to get them any longer. If that sounds like you, then you should know what could happen if you're caught in possession of heroin.

What are the penalties for being caught in possession of heroin?

The first penalty is for the possession of .5 oz or less. If you are caught in possession, you face a Class A misdemeanor. If you have more than two prior convictions, you'll face a Class E or C Felony depending on the circumstances. You can also face a fine of up to $100,000.

Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, are illegal on both the state and federal levels. That means that you could potentially face state and federal charges if you're caught in possession or attempting to sell the drug. If you sell heroin in Tennessee, you could face up to 60 years in prison and be fined up to $500,000. These are worst-case scenario numbers, but they're something of which residents struggling with addiction need to be aware.

The fortunate thing is that people now understand that many who use heroin did not intend to do so in the beginning. They got caught up in the addictive properties of their prescription medications and had nowhere else to turn.

Alternative options to prison do exist. You and your legal team may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to strike a plea deal or an arrangement to go through drug addiction counseling instead. Of course, the best option is to fight the charges and attempt to have them reduced or eliminated so that they don't go on your criminal record.

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Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law
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