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Tennessee Drug Possession Laws

Posted by John C. Taylor | Oct 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Governments on both state and federal levels commit a great deal of money and effort each fiscal year toward the enforcement of laws targeting drug use and possession in this country. Tennessee is no exception in its commitment to arresting and prosecuting individuals caught in possession of illegal drugs. Unlike states that have made the possession and use of marijuana legal for individuals suffering from specific medical conditions when prescribed by a physician or other licensed health care provider, or other states that have made it legal for recreational use, Tennessee arrests and prosecutes people for possession of marijuana. It also enforces its drug laws against those caught in possession of other controlled substances.

The penalties imposed for a violation of Tennessee drug possession laws usually depend upon the amount possessed, the type of drug, and the location at which it was possessed. The penalties are greater for larger amounts of drugs because the law presumes that larger quantities are intended for sale to others. Possession at or near a school, playground or other location where there are children would also result in a more serious charge and a harsher sentence imposed upon conviction.

Drugs are classified according to their designation as controlled dangerous substances under a classification system adopted under Tennessee law. The drug classifications, referred to as “schedules,” are as follows:

  • Schedule I: Drugs in this classification include LSD, mescaline and heroin. Schedule I drugs are those with the highest addiction and dependency risk but with no legitimate medical use.
  • Schedule II: Opium, cocaine and amphetamines are some of the drugs in this classification. Schedule II drugs have high addiction and dependency risks, but they have some legitimate medical uses.
  • Schedule III: Depressants, ketamine and anabolic steroids are in this group because they are less dangerous than drugs in the first two schedules. These drugs have a moderate abuse risk.
  • Schedule IV: Sedatives, tranquilizers and clonazepam are examples of drugs in this schedule that are believed to have acceptable medical uses, but they also have a slight dependency risk.
  • Schedule V: Drugs in this schedule have a low risk of dependency and legitimate medical uses. Included in this schedule is codeine.
  • Schedule VI: Marijuana is in this classification with a very low risk of dependency.
  • Schedule VII: The only drug in this schedule is butyl nitrate.

As a general rule, drug possession as a first offense is a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. This is true regardless of the type of drug you have in your possession as long as it is a first offense and the quantity is one-half ounce or less. Possession of larger amounts of controlled substances is treated as possession with the intent to sell and the charges rise to the felony level with fines that are substantially higher and prison sentences that are significantly longer.

Drug possession arrests and prosecutions frequently depend upon evidence that is seized from the person who is taken into custody. Searches and seizures of evidence must follow strict constitutionally mandated rules for it to be admissible at trial. A knowledgeable Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer is an excellent source of guidance and legal advice if you have been charged with drug possession. Contact the office of Dotson & Taylor in Murfreesboro to schedule a free initial consultation by calling 615-890-1982, or contact us online.

About the Author

John C. Taylor

John C. Taylor is a Murfreesboro native and a graduate of Oakland High School. He earned his bachelor's degree from Furman University in Greenville, SC, where he participated in the Furman Advantage Research program, studying religion in American politics. John also earned his Master's degree.


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