People who live in Tennessee likely expect that any criminal charges they face will be brought against them in the state of Tennessee. However, for certain criminal offenses, that will not be the case. Drug charges, in particular, can easily shift from state charges to federal charges, leaving the accused vulnerable to severe consequences.
Understanding when a drug charge could become a federal offense instead of a Tennessee crime can help you avoid making mistakes that could cost you your freedom. They can also help you develop a workable defense strategy for any pending criminal charges.
Drug trafficking violates both state and federal law
The first thing you have to understand is that any sale or transfer of a Schedule 1 substance like marijuana, methamphetamine or other popular street drugs breaks Tennessee state law, as well as federal law. The state of Tennessee has the right to charge you with a criminal offense, but the federal government may supersede that claim by the state to pursue justice.
If you got arrested by a federal agent, that could increase the likelihood of federal prosecution. If there are allegations of interstate commerce, such as transporting a prohibited substance into or out of Tennessee, that could also prompt the federal government to take charge of the prosecution. Allegations of conspiracy also increase the potential for federal prosecution for drug charges.
Finally, if you get arrested as part of a coordinated sting or enforcement operation, you could find yourself facing federal drug charges and not state charges. There are many differences between state and federal offenses, including sentencing protocols. The federal government has strict rules in place for anyone convicted of a federal drug trafficking offense.
The hard reality of federal drug sentencing laws
Those facing federal drug trafficking charges instead of state charges will have to worry about a federal criminal record that can haunt them for the rest of their lives regardless of where in the country they live. There is also the very real concern of the mandatory minimum penalties associated with federal drug trafficking charges.
The circumstances of your arrest, including the amount of prohibited substance involved and the amount of revenue the government believes you generated, will influence the severity of the charges and the ultimate penalties you face. Even for the smallest federal trafficking offenses, individuals could find themselves dealing with mandatory minimum sentence of five to 10 years.
Thankfully, it is possible to defend against federal charges as it is to defend against state drug charges. However, there are no diversion programs that allow lenience for those struggling with addiction like there are in Drug Court/Recovery programs at the state level. You will need to work with an attorney who has experience in helping people defend themselves against federal drug trafficking allegations.