If you were recently convicted of a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee you may have been sentenced to serve a period of time on probation in lieu of, or in addition to, a term of incarceration. If you have never before been on probation, you probably have a number of questions and concerns about how probation works and what is expected of you as a probationer. One of those questions may be whether they can drug test you while you are on probation. A drug criminal defense attorney answer that question given that the answer to that question is important even if you don’t use “street” drugs because failing a drug test could land you back in jail.
Probation Basics for the First-Time Probationer
Most people have some idea what probation is and what being on probation entails; however, there are also some common misunderstandings that can cause big problems down the road. Probation is a type of sentencing alternative that may be part of your sentence if you are convicted of a criminal offense. A defendant can be sentenced directly by the sentencing judge to a term of probation in addition to, or in lieu of, a period of incarceration in the county jail. Notice the term “jail” instead of “prison.” That distinction is also important because as a general rule, only sentences of incarceration for up to one year can be served in the county jail. If you are sentenced to serve more than one year, you will serve that time in the state prison system. Typically, a judge will actually sentence the defendant to a period of time in jail, but then suspend that time and allow the defendant to serve the suspended time on probation. For example, you might have been sentenced to a year in jail, but the judge suspended the entire year and ordered you to spend that year on probation. The underlying jail sentence is important to understand because if you violate your probation the judge can revoke your probation and order you to serve your suspended time in jail.
If you are sentenced to serve a period of time on probation, you will be supervised by the sentencing court throughout your time on probation. You will also be assigned to a probation officer. Most probationers are required to report to that officer on a regular basis; however, you could also have non-reporting probation. As the names implies, non-reporting probation means you do not have to report to an officer but must abide by all other conditions of your probation. The sentencing court sets the terms and conditions of your probation and retains jurisdiction over you until you complete your probation.
Probation Terms and Conditions
While on probation you must comply with all standard and special terms and conditions set by the court. Standard terms of probation are terms that every probationer must abide by while special conditions are terms that are specific to your situation and are typically included because of your criminal history or the type of offense you committed. Reporting to a probation officer as directed and maintaining employment and/or enrollment in school are examples of standard conditions of probation. Attending alcohol and drug rehabilitation or paying restitution for damages are examples of special conditions of probation.
Drug Testing While on Probation
Although you have retained your freedom, being on probation is legally the same as being in jail as far as some of your rights are concerned. You give up some of those rights while on probation because you are technically serving a sentence and you remain under the jurisdiction of the court. Submitting to drug tests is one area where the court’s jurisdiction can be seen while on probation. Not only can you be drug tested while on probation, but it can be done randomly throughout your time on probation and a test failure at any point can put you in jeopardy of having to go back to jail to serve your entire suspended sentence. Most probation departments provide probationers with a list of terms and conditions that clearly states drug testing as a condition; however, whether you have it in writing or not, assume you can be drug tested.
Typically, you will submit to an initial urine test that is used as a “baseline” test. The results can then be compared to later tests if you test positive for anything. Marijuana, for example, remains in your system for a relatively long time. If you test positive initially, but your levels go down with each successive test, your probation officer (and the court) can see you are no longer using marijuana.
Contact a Drug Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about drug testing while on probation in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced drug criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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