What You Need to Know About Drug Charges

In Tennessee, drug charges can be prosecuted under a variety of statutes. Depending on the substance involved, a conviction could result in a prison sentence, fines, or both. If you are arrested for drug possession in Tennessee, it is important to have an attorney who can help you navigate the complex legal system and protect your rights. To learn more about drug charges in Tennessee, read on.

What are Drug Charges in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, drug charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. The severity of the charge depends on the type and amount of drugs involved in the arrest. For example, possession of a small amount of marijuana (cannabis) is typically charged as a misdemeanor, while possession of large quantities of cannabis, cocaine, or heroin can result in a felony charge.

Not limited to possession, however, drug offenses may also be classified as the manufacture of a controlled substance. Drug charges may also include distribution, delivery, and trafficking of a controlled substance.

What Types of Drugs are Illegal in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, it is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture certain drugs. These are classified as Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V substances under the Tennessee Code Annotated. 

  • Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government has determined to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
  • Schedule II drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse and are considered to have a moderate to high dependence liability. They include drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and opium. In Tennessee, Schedule II drugs are classified as controlled substances, meaning they are subject to state regulation. For example, they may be used only with a prescription from a doctor. 
  • Schedule III drugs are those that have a moderate to low potential for abuse and are currently accepted for medical use in treatment in the United States. Some of these drugs include testosterone and codeine. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 placed these drugs into Schedule III of the CSA. The Tennessee Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act later amended the CSA to include anabolic steroids as a Schedule III drug.
  • Schedule IV drugs are those that have a low potential for abuse and dependence, and include medications like Xanax, Valium, and Ambien. In Tennessee, Schedule IV drugs are classified as controlled substances, and are subject to regulation by the state’s Department of Health. Schedule IV drugs may only be prescribed by licensed healthcare providers, and may not be dispensed without a prescription.
  • Schedule V drugs in Tennessee are those that have a low potential for abuse and are generally used for medical purposes. This includes drugs like cough syrup and codeine. These substances are closely monitored by the government to ensure that they are not being abused.

What are the Different Types of Drug Charges in Tennessee?

Drug crimes are classified into five categories in Tennessee: simple possession, possession with intent to sell or deliver, manufacture and sale, trafficking, and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

A simple drug possession charge is the most common type of drug charge and is usually for a small amount of drugs. Possession with intent to sell or deliver is when someone has a larger amount of drugs and is intending to distribute them. A person can be charged with manufacture and sale if they are caught making or selling large amounts of drugs. Trafficking is the most serious drug crime and occurs when someone brings drugs into the state or sells them across state lines. Possession of drug paraphernalia is when someone has any item that could be used to ingest or inhale drugs.

What are the Penalties for Drug Charges in Tennessee?

There are a variety of penalties that can be imposed for drug crimes in Tennessee. The severity of the punishment will depend on the type and amount of drugs involved, as well as the defendant’s prior criminal record. Some common penalties include jail time, fines, and probation.

For a first offense involving a small amount of drugs, a defendant may typically be sentenced to probation or jail time. However, if the defendant has a prior conviction for a drug-related crime, he or she may face harsher penalties, such as longer jail time or higher fines.

Drug charges can also lead to the loss of certain rights, such as the right to own a firearm. 

What is the Legal Process for Drug Charges in Tennessee?

If you are arrested in Tennessee for a drug-related offense, the first thing that will happen is that you will be taken to jail. You will have the opportunity to speak with an attorney before your initial court appearance, which will usually be within 48 hours of your arrest. At your initial appearance, the court will advise you of the charges against you and your bail amount, if any.

The next step in the legal process is called a preliminary hearing, which is a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial. If the judge finds there is enough evidence, the case will move forward and you will be arraigned.

During the trial, both sides (the prosecution and the defense) will present evidence and make arguments to a jury or judge.

How Can You Defend Against Drug Charges in Tennessee?

If you have been charged with a drug-related offense in Tennessee, your first step should be to seek legal counsel. An experienced defense attorney can help you understand the charges against you and develop a strategy for defending against them. There are several ways to defend against drug charges in Tennessee, depending on the specifics of your case.


In conclusion, if you are arrested and charged with a drug-related offense in Tennessee, it is important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney at 615-NASH-LAW. An attorney at 615-NASH-LAW can advise you of your rights and help you build a defense against the charges. Additionally, our attorneys will work to get the best possible outcome in your case. 

If you have been arrested and charged with a drug offense, please call us today at 615-802-7156 for a free consultation. We have a proven record of building a strong defense to get drug charges reduced or dismissed.

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