Know Your Rights: Marijuana Possession Defense In Tennessee

Unlike many states, possession of any amount of marijuana in the State of Tennessee is a criminal offense. If an amount of one-half (1/2) ounce or less of marijuana is possessed, the charge is misdemeanor simple possession. If the amount of marijuana possessed exceeds one-half (1/2) ounce, the State generally presumes that the intent of the possession is to sell. Possession with the intent to sell or deliver marijuana is a felony, and the severity of the felony increases with the amount possessed.

Consequences Of Marijuana Charges

A misdemeanor charge of simple possession carries a potential maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of $250. The potential sentence for felony charges of marijuana possession with intent to sell vary depending on the amount. Over one-half (1/2) ounce, but less than ten pounds is an E felony that carries a potential sentence of 1-6 years. Over ten (10) pounds, but less than 70 pounds is a D felony that carries a potential sentence of 2-12 years. Over 70 pounds, but less than 300 pounds is a B felony that carries a potential sentence of 8-30 years. And anything 300 pounds or more is an A felony that carries a potential sentence of 15-60 years.

Defending Your Case

There are a number of potential ways that defendants can mount a successful defense against marijuana charges. Many defense strategies rely on examining the constitutionality of how the marijuana was discovered.

Drugs Discovered Through Traffic Stop

For example, many marijuana charges result from a traffic stop. In these cases, an experienced defense attorney will examine:

  • Did the officer have probable cause to pull you over? In order to pull over a car, police must have probable cause that a traffic offense (such as speeding, a seat belt violation, or failure to use a turn signal for example) occurred.
  • Did the officer have probable cause to search your vehicle? In order to search your vehicle without consent, the officer must have probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle.
  • Did the officer obtain consent to search your vehicle? If the officer does not have probable cause to search your vehicle, you must provide consent to search.

Each of these steps present unique opportunities for a defense; defendants can assert that the initial traffic stop itself was invalid because there was no probable cause to believe that a traffic offense occurred; defendants can challenge the warrantless search for lack of probable cause; or defendants can even challenge the validity of the consent obtained by the officer.

John P. Webb has successfully defended many clients through each of these defense strategies. Visit his website to see how he can help you.

Drugs Discovered Through Search Warrant

Marijuana charges may also originate through the execution of a search warrant. Search warrants provide multiple opportunities for a defense. In examining your case, an experienced attorney will consider:

  • Did the search warrant establish probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found at the location? Search warrants are required to meet this threshold in order to be valid.
  • Was the information contained within the search warrant timely? If the search warrant contains old or stale information, it could be deemed invalid.
  • Was the search warrant specific as to the location to be searched? Search warrants do not allow officers to search in every location; they are required to provide specific parameters as to where the officers can search.

In order to execute a search warrant lawfully, law enforcement must satisfy these criteria; any instances in which they do not presents an opportunity for defendants to challenge the lawfulness of the search. Finding an attorney who can examine the details of your particular case is key to a successful defense.

John P. Webb has successfully defended numerous clients based on these defense strategies and can help you today.

Drugs Discovered Through Sales On The Street

Marijuana charges often result from street level sales. These sales might be undercover buys arranged by police or drug exchanges simply observed by police. These scenarios also have potential defenses, including examination of:

  • Was the undercover buy set up properly? Officers have a number of procedures to follow to properly set up an undercover buy.
  • Did the officers have probable cause to believe they observed a drug exchange? Officers need to describe the circumstances with enough particularity to later satisfy a court to be able stop individuals and search them on the basis of suspicion that a drug transaction has occurred in front of them. The kind of detail needed generally includes information about the area where the activity occurred (high crime area or area known for drug activity for example), the time of day, as well as the suspicious action they observed (often a hand to hand exchange).

Outcomes Of Marijuana Defense Cases

Using the potential defense strategies outlined above, defendants may be able to have their charges dismissed or reduced. If the legality of the officer’s actions are successfully challenged, the prosecution’s case may be significantly weakened and allow the defendant to prevail. This is why it is so important to have an experienced defense attorney in your corner.

If the above defense strategies are not available, there are still other potential avenues available to many defendants to challenge the evidence or reduce the potential consequences of a marijuana charge. For example, individuals with no prior criminal history may be eligible for an alternate sentence that would allow them to avoid serving jail time and eventually have their record expunged.

Even individuals facing felony marijuana charges may be eligible for judicial diversion. This program allows defendants with no prior criminal history who successfully complete a period of probation to be given a second chance and have their record wiped clean.

If you are facing charges related to marijuana, visit John P. Webb for the counsel of an experienced defense attorney.


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