Whether it’s Marijuana, prescription pills (without a prescription), or another controlled substance, being in possession of a controlled substance (or its analogue) can be punished as anywhere from a misdemeanor all the way to a Class A Felony. Law enforcement officers will often look for such items when conducting a search on a person (including cavity searches in jail/prison), their home, their car, or other property.
One of the most important determinations as to whether or not possession of a controlled substance qualifies as a misdemeanor or theft is determining just how much of the substance the subject is in possession of. While small amounts of most drugs constitute a misdemeanor criminal offense, possessing larger amounts can constitute a felony, where the suspect is believed to be in possession of the drug for resale, distribution, etc.
Even a misdemeanor offense can be punishable by up to eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail, while felony offenses can carry much stiffer sentences and fines, especially if the suspect is already a convicted felon. Simple possession of a small amount of Marijuana alone, for example, can lead to a minimum two hundred and fifty dollar ($250) fine, court costs (which can be significant), and any costs of probation (including drug screens, general costs, alcohol and drug assessments, etc.).
Meth: Stiffer Consequences
If a person is found in possession of methamphetamine, the range of punishment is typically more significant. Having even a very small amount of methamphetamine, for example, is punishable with no less than thirty (30) full days in jail, an increased fine, and is punished under a different section of the law.
While possession of other substances can be generically labeled “Simple Possession/Casual Exchange” on a person’s criminal history, possession of methamphetamine is labeled “Meth Violation” under T.C.A. 39-17-434, leading to tremendous difficulties for the violator’s future employment, housing, etc., even if the amount constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony.
School Zones: Mandatory Requirements
Possession of a felony amount of controlled substances in a “School Zone” can potentially raise a felony level for an offense and require mandatory jail time to be served (i.e. no probation) for any conviction. It’s important to understand that a “School Zone” is not limited to simply an elementary, middle, or high school and can include areas such as day cares and public parks as well.
Rehab: A Potential Aide
If a person is suffering from a substance abuse problem and is ready to seek help, successful completion of a drug rehabilitation program may count towards completion of a jail sentence. Our system of justice is often welcoming to those who seek help, including potential options in Drug Court, Veterans’ Treatment Court (VTC), or by completing a rehabilitation program outside of court.
Attorneys can assist with those who are ready to seek help with any problem that they may have in order to better their future. It is important to note, however, that a person should truly want help, as failure to complete treatment programs and return/report back to jail or court can lead to additional warrants and/or charges (including Escape).
If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug offense, whether it is simple possession or a felony offense, contact an attorney at Batson Nolan for an initial consultation to discuss your case.