You’ve been arrested or cited for possession of marijuana or other drugs? Now what?
If you’ve been charged with possession of drugs in Knoxville or East Tennessee you’re likely wondering what will happen next and what consequences could result from these charges. This page will explain the law and process related to simple possession charges in this area. The lawyers at Barnes & Fersten have defended numerous drug cases of the years and are dedicated to providing a top-notch legal defense along with down to earth, professional client service. Our attorneys are top rated Knoxville criminal defense lawyers who represent clients across East Tennessee including but not limited to Lenoir City, Loudon County, Clinton and Oak Ridge, Anderson County, Blount County, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Sevier County, Union County, and Roane County.
Tennessee law makes the possession of any controlled substance illegal unless it was prescribed to them by a doctor or other medical professional. Tennessee has not legalized marijuana, even for medical use, so possession of marijuana containing more than .3% THC is illegal. Other drugs, like heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine are also illegal to possess. If possession is for the purpose of distribution or sale, the offense becomes a felony.
Most simple possession charges are classified as class A misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors carry a range of punishment up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Other consequences can include court costs, probation, drug testing, and community service.
If you have no prior convictions, with limited exceptions, you may be eligible for judicial diversion. A judicial diversion allows for a period of time on probation which if successfully completed allows the charges to be dismissed and expunged from your record. However, a diversion does require a guilty plea, which can be converted to a conviction if new charges are incurred or if you violate the terms of probation.
There are several exceptions to the general rule stated above. One example is for the possessions of methamphetamine. The legislature imposed a 30 day mandatory minimum jail term for the possession of any amount of methamphetamine, if convicted. This mandatory minimum can be avoided only by amendment of the charges, dismissal, or participation in a “drug court” program. A second exception exists for individuals who have 2 or more prior simple possession convictions and when the charge involves heroin. In those cases, the class is enhanced to a felony.
Just because you are charged with simple possession does not mean you will be convicted and face the punishments outlined here. There are a number of strategies and options that can be used to get charges dismissed and to keep your record clean. Some of those include:
In recent years numerous marijuana look alike substances, including delta 8 and others, have come onto the market. These substances often look, smell, and even produce similar effects to marijuana that contains more than .3% THC. These products are sold in gas stations and shops in every city and town. It is up to the state to prove that the substance they are charging you with was illegal. However, when there is evidence to suggest that the substance was not illegal, we will gather that and often present it to a prosecutor to improve your defense.
Factors a prosecutor might consider in deciding whether to offer a dismissal include lack of prior convictions, steady employment, negative drug screens, and drug education or assessments. We may discuss with you showing proof of some combination of these in order to better negotiate on your behalf.
A common situation occurs when multiple people in a vehicle are charged with possession of a drug because it was found in the car and no person agrees it was theirs. This is done under a legal theory called constructive possession, but it is still the state’s obligation to prove that the person charged knew the drug was there and had the ability and intention of having control of the drugs. Proving that is often difficult.
The 4th amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. A huge body of law has been developed to guide courts in determining when an officer can and cannot stop, search, and seize people and property. Reviewing all the evidence, dash and body camera footage, reports and talking to witnesses will often call into question the legality of a search or seizure, which can lead to excluding evidence and dismissal of charges.
You have a right in all criminal cases where you face jail time to have 12 people decide your case. In certain situations, a trial could be the best decision. We will talk through all the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and provide you the best alternative options before you decide if yours is a case that should be tried.
At Barnes & Fersten we are dedicated to defending the people of East Tennessee who have been charged with drug crimes. We work hard to provide the best possible defense and being available to our clients for advice, explanation, and information whenever needed. Every case we take on is important to us because we know how important it is to you and your family. If you have recently been arrested for possession of drugs we’d be happy to speak with you about the details of your case, answer your questions, and prepare a defense specific to your circumstances. Contact us today at (865) 805-5703 or fill out the contact form on this page.