Getting arrested and charged with a crime can be a terrifying experience for anyone. Learning more about the legal system and what to expect after being arrested can help ease your fears. In case you were recently charged with a drug related crime, a Murfreesboro drug defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you need to know about drug crimes in Tennessee.
What Are the Penalties for a Drug Crime Conviction?
Like most states, Tennessee divides criminal offenses into misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies being the more serious crimes. The penalties you might face if convicted of a drug related criminal offense will depend on numerous factors and could range from a probation only sentence to a lengthy term of imprisonment. Factors such as the type of controlled substance, the amount, and your own criminal history (or lack of a history) will all contribute to the potential penalties if convicted.
Was the Search that Uncovered Drugs Legal?
Because the legality of any search is extremely dependent on the unique facts surrounding the search, only an experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the legality of the search in your case. There are, however, some general guidelines regarding the legality of searches and seizures. In the United States, we have certain rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. One of those rights is the right against unreasonable searches and seizures found in the 4th Amendment. The 4th Amendment essentially requires the police to obtain a warrant, based on probable cause, before a search and seizure can take place; however, that requirement has been watered down over the years.
For an officer to search your person, the officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is afoot. Even then, the officer can only conduct what is referred to as a “stop and frisk.” A “stop and frisk” involves a pat down of the outer layer of clothing. The rationale behind the “stop and frisk” exception to the warrant requirement is based on the potential risk of harm to law enforcement officers. Therefore, an officer can only remove (or seize) something if it is clearly a danger to the officer, unless the officer feels an object that is obviously contraband. This is called the “plain feel” doctrine. To pass the plain feel test, the item must have an immediately apparent character or quality of being contraband or evidence. To search your home, the police must have a valid warrant unless one of the few narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement applies. If the drugs involved in your case were seized as a result of an illegal search, a criminal defense attorney may be able to get the drugs excluded from trial.
Do I Have a Defense?
Again, given the unique circumstances involved in each case, the defenses available in a drug related prosecution can vary tremendously. There are, however, some common defenses a drug defense lawyer might use if the facts fit. For example, claiming the drugs were not yours is an excellent defense strategy if the contraband was not found under your direct control. Alleging that the search that resulted in the seizure of the drugs was an illegal search is another common defense. Never admit that contraband is yours. Always speak to an attorney before you talk to anyone about your case.
Will I Face Federal Charges?
You probably want to avoid doing federal time because you don’t get as much “good time” credit. If your case involves “smuggling” drugs across the border (country or state), you are wise to be worried about your case becoming a federal case; however, if you were arrested at the state level, your case will likely remain in state court. Typically, unless a case involves a considerable quantity of a controlled substance or there is another distinguishing characteristic about your case, the federal authorities won’t intervene.
Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug-related criminal offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro drug defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. In Tennessee contact a Murfreesboro drug defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.