Federal Sentencing Guidelines

How Does the Prosecutor Prove a Defendant Was Dealing Drugs?

Murfreesboro drug attorneyIn today’s world, having a conviction on your record for any drug-related criminal offense can have a devastating impact on all aspects of your life for many years to come. A conviction for dealing drugs, however, can also mean a lengthy prison sentence. If you were recently arrested and charged with dealing drugs, the first thing you need to learn is how the prosecutor is likely to prove the State’s case. Although every criminal prosecution is unique, a Murfreesboro drug attorney explains how a prosecuting attorney typically goes about proving that a defendant was dealing drugs.

Tennessee Controlled Substance Laws

Tennessee Code Section 39-17-417 governs offenses such as “dealing a controlled substance” in Tennessee, reading, in pertinent part, as follows:

(a)  It is an offense for a defendant to knowingly:

(1)  Manufacture a controlled substance;

(2)  Deliver a controlled substance;

(3)  Sell a controlled substance; or

(4)  Possess a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell the controlled substance.

One thing you may notice when reading through the above statute is that it does not specifically mention “dealing” drugs. This is because the term “dealing” is a layperson term. The law uses more precise terms as referenced above. Nonetheless, if you “sell” or “deliver” a controlled substance (drugs) that is the equivalent of “dealing” drugs. The potential punishment for manufacturing, selling, or delivering a controlled substance in Tennessee depends on the schedule and quantity of the controlled substance involved, ranging from a Class E felony, punishable by one to six years in prison up to a Class A felony, punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove?

In any criminal prosecution, the State has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The manner in which the prosecuting attorney intends to accomplish this objective will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest. Some common evidence used by the state to prove a charge of “dealing” includes:

  • Undercover buys — this is typically the most difficult to refute because it involves an actual controlled buy by an undercover law enforcement officer which was probably also recorded on audio and/or video.  In rare cases, you may be able to use entrapment as a defense; however, entrapment is much more difficult to prove than most people realize.
  • Confidential informant – this also involves the sale of drugs, but to a civilian. That civilian is typically someone who has been arrested himself/herself and is trying to get out of trouble by arranging the purchase of a much larger quantity of drugs from you. Questioning the reliability and motive of a CI is always a defense option – and one that often works well considering the circumstances.
  • Drugs found pursuant to a search – challenging the legality of the search may be a defense option. Depending on the quantity seized, you may also be able to make the argument that the drugs were for personal use, not for distribution.  For that defense to work, it is certainly helpful if no additional “tools of the trade” were recovered during the search and if you can prove that you had the financial means to purchase such a quantity of drugs for your own personal use.
  • Tools of the trade found in a search – this may refer to things such as scales, lab equipment, baggies, substances to “cut” the drugs, and anything else known to be used in the drug trade. Most of these items also have perfectly legitimate uses which may be argued as part of your defense. Baggies, for example, are legitimately used to store a myriad of items, including food.
  • Records – written records of transactions and/or money owed for sales of a controlled substance can be very damning if they are fairly clear. The best way to handle this type of evidence is to try and get it excluded, if possible.

Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Attorney

If you have additional questions about dealing drugs, or other drug-related offenses, in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael