Marijuana laws around the country are changing. Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado; medicinal marijuana is legal in 23 states; and attitudes about the use and danger of marijuana have changed from people on Main Street to the main stream media. BUT the law in Tennessee remains the same. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a serious crime. Punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. While its true that most low level marijuana offenders do not end up incarcerated, there are still serious consequences if a simple possession charge isn’t taken seriously and handled properly.
Convictions for simple possession, with only a few exceptions, are forever. A conviction, even one that carries no jail time and only a fine, will land you on probation for the year and stay on your permanent record forever. The only ways to avoid that fate are:
- Don’t get convicted in the first place
This is the best option as it can keep you from spending time on probation, paying expensive fines and court costs, and being at risk for being thrown in jail if anything goes wrong. Even if you acknowledge the fact that you did have marijuana in your possession, there are often other issues that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can identify that could keep you from being convicted. Often times there are ways around a conviction that you could never know about from researching online or even showing up to court. The only and best way to know if avoiding a conviction is possible is to talk to a lawyer who regularly handles marijuana possession cases.
- Bargain for a judicial diversion under T.C.A. §40-35-313 (or rarely a pretrial diversion)
If you’ve never been convicted of a class A misdemeanor for which you served time, or any felony in Tennessee, you are likely eligible for a judicial diversion. Judicial diversion means you sign a guilty plea but the court does not enter it. Instead it puts the plea in the file and leaves it there for 11 months and 29 days. If during that time you abide by all the conditions of probation and pay your fines and costs, the case will be dismissed and, for a fee of $450, can be expunged from your record. Even if you are eligible for a diversion, you are not entitled to one. You have to get the agreement of the prosecutor and the approval of the court first.
If you are convicted of a simple possession and you have no other convictions anywhere in the country and if you wait 5 years from the end of your sentence (usually a total of 6 years from you conviction), you may be able to have the conviction removed from your record. To do so you will have to file a Petition and get the consent of the District Attorney’s office and the approval of the court, as well as pay the required fees. This process, like a diversion, is not a matter of right.
If you have been cited or arrested for simple possession, give the Barnes and Fersten and call and find out how we can help. Using an experienced marijuana and drug charge attorney can save you a lot of hassle, money, and other serious consequences in the long run, and it probably is not even as expensive as you might imagine. Call us at (865) 805-5703 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.