We all know the basics. A drug conviction, whether for possession, distribution, or trafficking, can mean serious prison time. Offenders familiar with the system know a judge can also impose certain financial penalties, but do you know about the collateral consequences of a drug conviction? Are you prepared to lose your right to vote, hunt, or travel? Are you an immigrant prepared for deportation? You must consider all of these factors in deciding how to proceed in a drug offense case in Tennessee’s federal or state courts.
Not all criminal defense attorneys delve into the depth of these collateral consequences. When faced with the decision of entering a guilty plea or heading to trial, it’s your right to be fully informed. At Barnes and Fersten, our commitment is to ensure that you and your family have comprehensive knowledge and understanding to make well-informed decisions regarding your Tennessee drug charges. For a thorough and free drug defense consultation, contact our Knoxville office today at (865) 805-5703 or reach out to us online.
Understanding the Penalties of Drug Offenses in Tennessee
Penalties for drug offenses in Tennessee differ based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, the following:
- Jurisdiction: Differences in penalties between federal and state courts.
- Type of Substance: Penalties can vary depending on the drug involved.
- Quantity of the Substance: Larger quantities often lead to more severe punishments.
- Intent to Distribute: Charges involving distribution typically carry heavier penalties.
- Aggravating Factors: Circumstances that can increase the severity of the sentence.
- Criminal History: Previous convictions can influence sentencing.
- Mitigating Factors: Elements like cooperation with law enforcement can affect outcomes.
Major drug convictions (felonies) generally include a prison sentence, probation, and certain administrative fines. Restitution, though mandatory in many criminal cases, isn’t typically ordered in drug offense cases. Restitution refers to compensation paid for direct losses incurred by the victim of a crime, such as funeral costs, medical bills, or property damage. However, in certain cases where the offense involves additional criminal activities, restitution might be applicable.
For minor offenses, like misdemeanors or possession infractions, the consequences may include probation, court-ordered counseling, minor fines, or mandatory rehabilitation programs. It’s important to note that first-time offenders with non-violent drug offenses rarely face prison time, but they are still subject to the collateral consequences of a criminal record. Understanding these nuances is vital for anyone facing drug charges in Tennessee.
Additional Legal Consequences of a Drug Conviction in Tennessee
A drug conviction in Tennessee, particularly a felony offense, carries significant additional legal consequences, often extending beyond the prison sentence itself. Being labeled a convicted felon, even without a sentence exceeding a year, can lead to a host of serious collateral impacts, including:
- Loss of voting rights in all major elections
- Inability to own a firearm, fireworks, or hunting gear
- Inability to obtain a visa to travel overseas
- Inability to travel to Canada or Mexico
- Inability to obtain United States citizenship
- Deportation and severe immigration consequences for non-citizens,
- Failure to qualify for certain federal or state employment
- Inclusion on the Tennessee Drug Offender Registry
Moreover, these consequences can extend to the seizure of assets deemed connected to illegal activities, including fines and restitution costs. Assets procured with funds from drug trafficking, such as vehicles, homes, or even college funds, are at risk of government seizure. Bank accounts may be frozen, and transferring such funds can implicate family members, especially if they have benefited from these illegal enterprises.
Collateral & Unexpected Consequences of a Drug Conviction
The legal (de jure) consequences of a drug conviction are found in certain federal and state laws, regulations, and sentencing guidelines. However, the real (de facto) consequences of a drug conviction can’t be found in a book. Too many drug offenders accept or reject plea deals without understanding the true consequences of their actions, and it’s not always their fault. Court-appointed attorneys are overburdened and underpaid and seldom have the time necessary to explain the collateral consequences of your conviction. This can perpetuate frustration with the court system and discourage necessary lifestyle changes.
At Barnes and Fersten Law, we neither abandon nor forget our clients. We’ve seen our clients struggle with the following unanticipated consequences of a drug conviction, and we will use our knowledge to ensure you’re making an informed decision about your drug charges. Think about how the following collateral consequences of a drug conviction may affect your life:
- Loss of a driving and/or hunting license – Will you lose your job? Your hobbies? Your ability to see your children?
- Automatic disqualification from jobs
- Extreme difficulty gaining entry into certain professions such as medicine and law
- Difficulty with college admission and financial aid
- Inability to leave the state during probation – Do you have out-of-state family you often visit? What if a job opportunity arises out of state?
- Disqualification from certain state aid programs
- Inability to join certain websites – you may be blocked from social media or dating websites as you rebuild your life
- Rejection from certain private living facilities or even homes located near schools.
These difficulties can perpetuate the criminal cycle by preventing and discouraging offenders from seeking a different path. The mental, emotional, and psychological stigma associated with a drug conviction can also take its toll.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Fortunately, not every drug case results in a conviction. If the police violated your rights during your arrest or while they were investigating your case, it could result in all of the evidence they gathered against you being excluded from court. Similarly, there may be additional facts that you could allege that indicate that the drugs that were discovered were not actually in your possession, or if they were, that you were unaware of them. To determine whether these or any other defenses apply in your case, call Barnes and Fersten to speak to an attorney today.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.