From the legalization of medical marijuana to the decriminalization of recreational use, it seems like nearly every state is changing their cannabis laws. Unfortunately, Tennessee is not one of those states.
Possession of a half-ounce of marijuana or less is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500. A $250 fine is required for all first-time convictions. A subsequent offense results in a $500 mandatory minimum fine.
The defense of an individual charged with possession of a controlled substance such as cannabis is typically difficult, but not impossible. Some defenses challenge the stated facts, evidence or testimony of the case. Other defenses focus on procedural errors.
The following are some of the most common defenses to drug possession charges:
- The arresting officer lacked probable cause – First, you need to try to show that the reason the officer stopped you was unjustified. If you were arrested for marijuana possession after a traffic stop, did you commit a traffic violation that forced law enforcement to pull you over?
- Unlawful search and seizure – According to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, every citizen has the right to due process of law, which includes lawful search and seizure procedures before an arrest is made. When it comes to drug possession cases, this is one of the most common defenses. While control substances found in “plain view” may be seized and used as evidence, drugs found in someone’s vehicle or home without consent cannot be entered into evidence. If the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, then the illicit drugs cannot be used at trial, which often leads to the dismissal of charges.
- The drugs belong to another person – Another common defense to any criminal charge is to simply claim that you didn’t commit the crime. The drug possession equivalent to “I didn’t do it” is to claim the drugs aren’t yours. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will pressure the prosecution to prove that the cannabis found in the vehicle actually belonged to his/her client and not one of the other two passengers.
- Unwitting possession – In these cases, although the person may have actual possession of the illegal substances, they cannot be found legally guilty of possession because they didn’t know that they were in possession of drugs. For instance, if an individual gives a package to a messenger service that contains drugs, and the messenger services is unaware that there are drugs in the package, then the messengers cannot be held accountable for actual drug possession if they are later caught in possession.
- Police abuse of power – In rare circumstances, the police abused their power in discovering the drugs. The planted evidence is often the most popular example, but police abuse of powers takes many other forms, such as entrapment, illegal surveillance, or pressure or threaten witnesses or other parties.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession, it is important to understand that attempting your own defense is not wise. Instead, contact a well-qualified attorney in your jurisdiction right away.