Don’t let anyone fool you—while you may not be going to prison for the rest of your life—drug charges are a very serious thing. If this is your first encounter with the criminal courts of Tennessee, you can count on very little leniency. And if you have other convictions on your record, heavy-handed justice can be expected.

Officials in the state of Tennessee crack down hard on drug offenses. From Memphis to the mountains, you can expect to be treated like a criminal from the moment of your arrest until your case finds its way out of the system.

Drug Possession Laws in Tennessee

Other states have confusing drug possession laws, where the amount, concentration, and type of drug all play a role in determining the sentence you’ll face. In Tennessee, it’s simplified. But that means you can face the same charge for possession of marijuana as you face for possession of heroin.

“Possession” doesn’t necessarily mean you had drugs on you. You can be accused of possession for having drugs in your car or even simply near you. Because of this, sometimes drug possession charges are levied against the wrong person.

Maybe you didn’t know the drugs were in your car, or your friend has already admitted the drugs were his—whatever the case, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you sort out the legal trouble you’re in.

Marijuana Charges

If you are issued a citation for a first offense marijuana charge, the good news is that there is a good chance a lawyer can work out a favorable deal to keep a conviction off your record in most cases.  While the statute itself is not favorable, most judges are reasonable.

However, just half an ounce or more can be charged as a felony offense, which is much more serious.

So there is no need to panic, but speak to an attorney who has dealt with cases like this in courts in your area of Tennessee.

Drug Possession Penalties

In Tennessee, first-time drug possession charges are classified as a misdemeanor. Whether you are charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or meth, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail and fines reaching $2,500.

However, if this isn’t your first offense, you face more serious charges.

If you are charged with possession of marijuana, and it is your second offense, you will still face misdemeanor charges.  But, if this is your third marijuana possession charge or you are accused of possession heroin, cocaine, or any other serious drug for a second time, you will face felony charges.

Possession of drugs, second offense, is a Class E felony charge. If convicted, you could face 1-6 years in prison and fines reaching $3,000.



Possession of drug paraphernalia is a separate charge, a Class A Misdemeanor, which it’s own max penalty of up to just under 1 year in jail (11 months, 29 days)

Other Legal Considerations

The state of Tennessee also usually orders drug offenders to take a drug education course upon conviction.

The stakes are high when you are charged with drug possession in Tennessee. Let us put you in touch with a local criminal defense lawyer today who may be able to help.