Are Tennessee drug sentences appropriate to the crimes?

A recent article questioned the appropriateness of penalties for drug possession for personal use. The question affects more people than readers might realize: An American is arrested every 25 seconds for possession of personal use drugs. Although officials may claim that their enforcement efforts target those who sell drugs, those who possess drugs are arrested at rates four times greater than seller arrest rates.

Penalties for possession are generally lower than sale of a controlled substance or drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, possibly implicating only a misdemeanor for a first offense. However, certain controlled substances may implicate possession with intent, and/or aggressive prosecutors may seek higher penalties.

A drug charge may also implicate both state and federal laws, depending on the circumstances. In the event of a conviction, the appeal will have to be brought in the appropriate forum. Our criminal defense law firm has experience with both state and federal appeals.

Although each forum has separate procedural rules, there are common issues where a defendant’s rights might have been compromised during the lower court trial. For example, evidence may have been improperly excluded, or vice versa. Perhaps the jury instructions were confusing or involved the wrong laws.

A lower court’s sentencing may also be subject to review by a higher court if it was inappropriate to the crime or not supported under the applicable laws. Some federal crimes may be subject to mandatory minimum sentencing, but a court often has discretion even under those guidelines.

Finally, our criminal defense law firm has also defended clients at their criminal trial. We work hard to negotiate with prosecutors, proposing alcohol and drug rehabilitation as options to incarceration. We also hold prosecutors to their burden of proof, where evidence must be presented that demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: Human Rights Watch, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” copyright 2016, Brian Stauffer

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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