When a Tennessee resident faces drug charges, the court proceedings will usually happen in Tennessee state court -- if the alleged crime happened within state lines. However, certain cases may fall outside the jurisdiction of Tennessee law and they must be litigated in federal court.
The federal law that governs drug charges is the federal Controlled Substances Act. This law has been in effect since the 1970s and it's the reason why we have "drug classifications" that rank drugs according to how "serious" and "dangerous" they are.
For example, under federal law, heroin, marijuana and LSD are "Schedule I" drugs and the federal government sees them as some of the most dangerous drugs that exist. Those convicted of crimes related to Schedule I drugs will face the most serious punishments.
Because the laws and punishments are different under federal law, it's important for defendants to handle the defense of their federal drug crimes cases differently than a state-level offense.
Situations that could result in a drug crime falling under the jurisdiction of a federal court:
-- The alleged drug violation occurred on federal property. Imagine someone was found in possession of marijuana in Tennessee, but it happened at a federal park. This case would fall under federal jurisdiction.
-- The alleged drug violation involved the defendant crossing state lines, or the drug offenses happened in multiple states. Imagine someone is returning to Tennessee from a road trip to Colorado with marijuana in their vehicle. This case would also fall under federal jurisdiction.
-- The alleged drug violations involved the crossing of international borders. Imagine someone is transporting drugs from another country into the United States. This would be a federal level offense.
-- The alleged drug violations involved the use of the postal system to convey or send controlled substances. Imagine someone mailed a friend marijuana from Colorado and it was intercepted by authorities. This would also be a federal offense.
If your drug case needs to be litigated in federal court, make sure you bring yourself up to speed on federal drug law because the rules and regulations in the state of Tennessee will not apply to your situation.