Tennessee is particularly harsh on drug laws. If the defendant gets a conviction for manufacturing, delivering or possessing the drug with intent, then they receive felony charges. As a result, they spend significantly more time in prison and have higher fees to pay off, making the recovery process all the more difficult no matter what age you are. College students would lose their scholarships while facing potential expulsion and adults would have a hard time finding a new job with a criminal record.
However, not all drug violations are felonies. One of the few drug crimes that qualify as a misdemeanor is simply possessing the drug or performing a casual exchange. To avoid more life damaging charges, you must understand the fine lines that separate drug possession changing from a misdemeanor to a felony.
How much were you holding?
Tennessee's marijuana possession limit is 0.5 ounces. That alone is already a Class A misdemeanor, so anything more than that will become a felony. A large amount of the substance could make the prosecutor more suspicious of your activity. This results in them accusing you of possessing the drug with the intent to distribute, which adds even more charges to your conviction.
How old was the person you exchanged with?
If they convict you of exchanging drugs with a minor, then it has a high chance of becoming a felony. In Tennessee, you would have to be at least 2 years older than the receiver and know that the person is a minor. You could plead that you did not know that the recipient was that young, but it can be a hard situation to defend.
Is this your first arrest?
Every subsequent conviction you receive for drug possession or casual exchange will increase the fines and jail time. However, the court can only accept it so many times before charging your possession with a felony. If you have two or more prior convictions to the case, they will punish you with a Class E felony.
What drug were you holding?
The misdemeanor charges are immediately tossed aside if they determine you holding a drug with the higher potential for abuse. Marijuana is a schedule VI drug, which means that it can be a misdemeanor if you simply get possession charges. However, if the court catches you possessing schedule I drugs such as heroine, morphine or LSD, then you will be charged with a felony no matter how much you are holding or who you gave it to.
The borders between a misdemeanor and a felony could be the difference between owing a couple thousand dollars and a few years in prison to owing hundreds of thousands of dollars and a decade in jail. With how high Tennessee's conviction rate is, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney is your best option if you want to eliminate or reduce the potential charges from your arrest.