Despite sweeping changes across the country regarding how the law treats marijuana, the “War on Drugs” remains in high gear for all other controlled substances. If you are facing criminal charges related to drugs, it is imperative that you learn as much about what you are facing as possible. To get you started, a Murfreesboro drug crime attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you need to know if you have been charged with a drug crime.
Controlled Substance Offenses and Potential Penalties
First and foremost, you need to have a clear picture of the charges filed against you and the potential penalties if you are convicted. Tennessee, like most states, separates drug offenses into misdemeanors and felonies with felonies carrying the most severe potential penalties. Whether you are charged with possession or the more serious offenses of manufacturing and distributing will decide whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Factors such as the type of controlled substance, the amount, and your own criminal history (or lack of a history) will also contribute to the potential penalties you face if convicted.
Prescription Drug Offenses
When the War on Drugs began, drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana were the drugs most typically targeted by law enforcement officers. Today, however, prescription drugs are just as often involved in drug-related arrests. Consequently, possession of even a single pill for which you do not have a current, valid prescription could result in your arrest and potential conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Transferring that pill, either given as a gift or sold, could result in an arrest for the sale of a controlled substance. If you have a prescription for the medication in question it could aid in your defense; however, do not make the mistake of assuming that it is an absolute defense.
Federal vs. State Prosecution
Unless you have been arrested before, you likely know very little about the criminal courts. The United States operates under a federalist form of government, meaning we have a strong central government along with numerous smaller state level governments. Consequently, we also have both a federal criminal court system and individual state level criminal court systems. You could be charged with a federal or state drug offense. As a general rule, however, only cases involving large quantities of a controlled substance or those that involve “smuggling” drugs across the border (country or state) are pursued by federal law enforcement authorities.
Common Defenses to Drug Crimes
No two drug related cases involve the exact same facts. Consequently, the defenses available in a drug related prosecution will be determined by the facts of the specific case; however, there are some common defenses used in drug related cases, such as:
- Challenging an illegal stop– an arrest for am drug related offense often begins with a random, or unrelated, traffic stop. Once stopped, something about the driver, the vehicle, or the passengers makes the officer suspect that drugs are present in the vehicle and a K-9 search follows. One avenue of defense is to challenge the legality of the original stop. Your attorney may also challenge the amount of time you were detained after the original reason for the stop concluded and/or the reason for the subsequent search.
- Challenging an illegal search – a drug related arrest may also be the result of a search and seizure of a home or business. If your arrest stemmed from the search of your home, your lawyer may challenge the search because the law only allows a home to be searched with a warrant unless one of the few exceptions to the warrant requirements applies.
- Challenging a constructive possession claim– if the prosecutor is basing the charges on a constructive possession argument, your attorney will undoubtedly use that in your defense. Constructive possession is used to satisfy the “possession” element of a crime when the accused did not have the contraband under his/her direct, physical control. Instead, the prosecutor must convince a judge or jury that the defendant had constructive possession, meaning he/she had the “intent to maintain dominion and control over the contraband.” Your lawyer will argue that you did not, in fact, have that intent.
Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Crime Attorney
If you are facing drug related criminal charges, if is in your best interest to consult with a Murfreesboro drug crime attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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