Under Tennessee’s simple possession law, it is a crime to “knowingly possess” or “casually exchange” a controlled substance unless you have a valid prescription. Marijuana is probably the most common drug associated with a simple possession charge. Someone that possesses or distributes small amounts of marijuana—one-half ounce or less—can be charged under the simple possession law.
Simple possession is a “three-strikes” law. Just like in baseball, you get three strikes, and after your third strike, the punishment for the crime gets more severe. For a first or second conviction of simple possession, the crime is a misdemeanor, which means that the maximum sentence someone can receive is less than one year. The law also requires mandatory fines when someone is convicted of simple possession. For a first conviction involving marijuana, the minimum fine is $250. For a second conviction involving marijuana, the minimum fine is $500.
But after two convictions, the consequences become more severe: on the third offense, the crime can become a felony, which carries a minimum one-year sentence. In addition, the minimum fine increases.
Our experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyers are here to advise you through the entire legal process
When police catch someone possessing, exchanging, or distributing a substance, they must prove exactly what the substance is. It’s not good enough that an officer thinks that the substance is a drug. The prosecutor must prove that the substance was, in fact, a prohibited drug to charge someone with simple possession. How does the prosecutor prove that? The state of Tennessee has its own lab at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) that can test substances and identify what they are. When the substance is seized, the police will send it the TBI lab so that it can be identified.
The TBI uses a technique known as gas chromatography to separate and identify the substance. Assuming the TBI lab confirms that the substance is an illegal drug, the prosecution can go forward with the case.
Because a test sample is handled by many different people, one potential problem is the “chain of custody”—a type of record that keeps up with who received the sample, who tested the sample, etc. If the TBI cannot account for the sample at all times, they may not be able to use it against you.
Don’t let a simple drug possession drug chare ruin your future
A simple possession conviction can lead to serious consequences, especially if you have earlier convictions.