If you’ve been caught with possession of drugs, you may think it is a minor offense and you will get off with a slap on the wrist. You should take these charges very seriously, however, because they can have a lasting impact on your criminal record and your life.

It is illegal in Tennessee to possess a controlled substance without a medical prescription for the drug. If you have been arrested without enough of the controlled substance in your possession to be charged with manufacturing or distributing the drug, you will be charged with possession.

In Tennessee, you will face the same charge for possession of a more harmless drug, such as marijuana, as you will face for possession of a very harmful substance, such as cocaine or heroin. Furthermore, possession can mean anything from having the drugs in your pocket to having them in your car or even near you.

Drug possession charges can be difficult to get dismissed because, unlike most crimes, the state will not have to prove your mental state or intent. It does not matter why you had the drug in your possession or what you were going to do with it. The simple fact that you had it without having a valid prescription is enough for a conviction.

First and second convictions for drug possession are a class A misdemeanor, and penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both. Convictions for third and subsequent possessions are class E felonies, and they incur a fine of up to $3,000, one to six years in prison, or both. For third and subsequent offenses, you can also be fined an additional $10,000 if you committed the offense near a school or other drug-free zone. You also may be required to take drug education classes or perform community service.

Simple drug possession really isn’t so simple after all, and you should consult with an experienced drug crime attorney if you have been charged. You may be able to have the case dismissed on a technicality with your lawyer’s help.