Maryville Drug Crime Defense Lawyers
Blount County drug crime defense attorneys protecting your rights for three decades
The laws governing drug crimes are among the most complicated there are. Some laws are unique to Tennessee; others are ruled by the federal government. Since the so-called War on Drugs, anyone accused of a drug crime faces a long, difficult slog through a system that only seeks to punish – sometimes indiscriminately.
At Shepherd & Long, P.C., however, you’ll find a helping hand reaching out to you. Attorney Kevin Shepherd began his career as an Assistant District Attorney and then as an Assistant Public Defender, so he understands better than most how a drug crime conviction can affect your life in permanent ways. As criminal defense attorneys in Maryville, we put our extensive background and resources to work for you when you’re facing drug charges of any kind. You can place your trust in us to defend you at every step.
Common drug charges in Tennessee
Often, after being charged with a crime, our clients tell us they are not sure what kind of drug charge they’re facing. This is perfectly normal, and our job is to let you know what you’re up against.
The Tennessee Criminal Code on drug offenses can be difficult to understand, and the distinctions between the charges are sometimes so minute, it can be hard to know the difference. The most common drug charges include:
- Possession of a controlled substance. Possession charges vary by the type of drug you have in your possession. For example, if you’re found guilty of possessing a Schedule I drug (like LSD or heroin) you face far more severe consequences than if you’re convicted of possessing a Schedule VI drug (like marijuana). The schedules are decided in part by the risk of dependency; since heroin has a higher rate of dependency than marijuana, it’s a higher number on the schedule list.
- Possession of paraphernalia. A paraphernalia charge indicates that you use drugs for personal use. If a police officer finds syringes or rolling papers, you could face a paraphernalia charge.
- Possession with intent. Intent can mean many things: intent to sell, intent to distribute or intent to manufacture. These are far more serious accusations. How much of a controlled substance (or paraphernalia) you possess determines which class of felony you face. You also face substantial prison time and fines.
- Trafficking. Blount County falls just outside the perimeter of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), so drug trafficking charges are more common in this area than in others. They’re also incredibly serious. Since trafficking laws are purposely vague, they encompass possessing, selling, distributing, financing, manufacturing – the list goes on. If you’re convicted of trafficking across state lines, you could spend the rest of your life in prison.
- Prescription fraud. Prescription drugs are among the most highly abused and distributed in Tennessee. Prescription fraud involves obtaining legal drugs in an illegal manner. Prescription fraud charges may involve additional theft or burglary charges, be linked to Medicaid fraud or even include purchasing drugs online from a supplier in another country. It’s a complicated law, and you need an experienced lawyer to help you.
How does Tennessee classify drugs and controlled substances?
Classifications for drugs are referred to as “schedules.” Tennessee has five schedules of drugs, with Schedule 1 having the highest likelihood for abuse and no medicinal value.
Schedule I drugs
These drugs have a high risk of abuse and no accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs include opiates not listed on another schedule, LSD, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, MDMA, and peyote.
Schedule II drugs
Schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse and dependency, but with some accepted medical use. They include oxycodone, morphine, opium, fentanyl, amphetamines, and pentobarbital.
Schedule III drugs
These substances have the potential for dependency and abuse, although to a lesser extent than Schedules I or II. Schedule III drugs include things like ketamine or anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV drugs
Schedule IV substances have a lower potential for abuse or dependency, as well some accepted medical use. They are typically painkillers like Tramadol, phenobarbital, or diazepam. Although these are considered “less risky” than other drugs, if you are alleged to have them without a prescription, or attempting to sell or distribute, you can face charges from law enforcement.
Schedule V drugs
These have the lowest risk of dependency and abuse, as well as accepted medical use. Things like low doses of codeine, certain cough medicines, Lyrica, or Parepectolin.
As you might imagine, penalties for a Schedule I offense are much more serious than penalties for a Schedule V drug offense – however, both are still a crime.
Schedule VI drugs
This classification is for marijuana, which is still an illegal drug in Tennessee in any amount, regardless of its purpose.
What are the penalties for drug crimes in Tennessee?
Charges like simple possession – if it’s the first offense – are typically considered Class A misdemeanors, with potential penalties of up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500. Simple possession is less than half an ounce. If you are in possession of more than a half-ounce, the charges can rise to felony level, with potential penalties of up to 30 years of jail time. You can also face serious collateral consequences, which can prevent you from finding a job, securing educational financial aid, qualification for housing loans, and you can lose the right to possess a firearm.
Penalties for a drug crime conviction depend on several factors:
- The quantity of the drug involved
- The schedule on which the drug appears
- The purpose of its possession
Although Maryville authorities consider drug possession for personal use a crime, they consider the manufacture or sale of illicit drugs even more seriously. Conviction for possession can range from a misdemeanor to several years in jail and then quickly escalate for repeat offenders or high quantities of drugs. The attorneys at Shepherd & Long work to have your sentence modified or reduced through participation in a drug treatment program.
When is a drug crime a federal crime?
Simple possession is typically a misdemeanor, but with more serious allegations, you may find yourself facing federal drug charges. Depending on the substance and amount, arrests for things like possession with intent to distribute, drug trafficking and conspiracy, and drug manufacture can carry federal charges. You can also face multiple federal charges if you are arrested for transporting drugs across state lines or distributing drugs while in possession of a firearm.
Additionally, possession of any Schedule drug without a valid prescription on federal property, such as the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, results in a federal drug charge.
Conviction for a federal drug crime carry much more serious penalties – longer prison sentences, higher fines, and fewer possibilities for parole. Our Maryville drug crime defense attorneys investigate every aspect of your case, including the charges against you, and dedicate ourselves to your defense. Our goal is to have most or all of your charges reduced or even dropped altogether.
What does drug trafficking and conspiracy mean?
Drug trafficking is sort of an umbrella term that covers drug manufacturing, delivery, sale, and possession with intent to distribute. As we said earlier, these types of crimes are typically prosecuted as felonies. If the alleged crime crossed state lines, the case will be tried at the federal level, otherwise you will be tried at the state level.
Tennessee also has mandatory minimums for drug trafficking convictions, including significant financial penalties and prison time. Prosecutors can also utilize conspiracy charges to round up all parties involved in a drug case. The elements necessary to prove conspiracy in a drug ring include:
- An agreement to break the law
- Each person in the party knew about the agreement and planned to participate in it
- The defendant knew of the conspiracy and voluntarily joined it
The criminal defense attorneys at Shepherd & Long put their negotiating skills to work to help mitigate the consequences of a drug crime arrest.
If you’re facing drug charges in East Tennessee, you need smart, experienced representation. You need an attorney with the skills and resources to mount a proper defense of your rights. We are those criminal defense attorneys. We have successfully brought cases involving drug crimes to conclusion for over 30 years. We make sure that you understand what is ahead of you at every step, and create innovative strategies that are tailored to your specific case. We fight not only for your rights, but for your future.
Facing drug charges? Talk to our Maryville defense lawyers
A drug crime conviction can turn your entire world upside down. At Shepherd and Associates, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and your freedom. For more information, or to schedule a consultation with Shepherd & Long, P.C. call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out the contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.