Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
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What was the drug that you were charged with?
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In Tennessee, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphanalia are two separate and distinct charges.
If you are charged with simple possession or casual exchange of marijuana you will face Class A misdemeanor penalties. This means you may serve up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and face fines up to $2,500.
Penalties in most courts, if a person is convicted and it's a first offense, the penalties are usually not this severe, but there are some courts in Tennessee that impose some jail, even for the first offense.
Possession of drug paraphernalia is also a Class A misdemeanor punishable by the same penalties as the marijuana.
Again, most courts would not impose the maximum penalty for a first offense, but there are no guarantees.
Because it is your first offense, you may ask to speak to the prosecutor at your court date. It is possible that s/he will offer you a plea agreement. You can ask for the paraphernalia charged to be dropped, and that you be allowed a pre trial diversion on the marijuana. That type of plea arrangement could keep your record clean, but is within the discretion of the prosecutor as to whether or not you are offered it.
According to Tennessee law, for a person to be granted a pre-trial diversion both the prosecutor and defendant agree to suspend prosecution for a period of time.
To be eligible, among other qualifications, you must not have had any other convictions within 5 years that would make you ineligible, or any other pre-trial diversions.
Again, the prosecutor and defendant must agree to suspend prosecution. And even if you are eligible, it doesn't mean that a pretrial diversion will be offered. The agreement to suspend prosecution of a period of time is done by a "memorandum of understanding"
The prosecution can be suspended up to a maximum of two years once the memorandum of understanding is filed.
You may have to follow certain conditions during the period. For example, you may not be arrested or convicted of a crime, you may have to pay fees, do community service, complete drug testing and/or education, etc. Once these conditions are completed, the charges will dropped within 90 days after the expiration of the period of suspension.
This will keep your record clean. This can become very important if you are applying for a job, a training program, a school, etc. You do NOT want to have a drug or drug related conviction on your record if at all possible.
Because of the long term consquences of a drug conviction, you really should speak to an attorney who specializes in criminal law. You can contact your local bar association for a referral. It will probably give you 2 or 3 names. You can contact the attorney(s) for a telephone consultation, or ask to set up an appointment to discuss the specific facts of your case and speak to him/her about a pre-trial diversion. Sometimes, these consultations are free.
I wish you the best of luck.
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