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Understand Tennessee penalties for drug trafficking

| May 26, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Drug trafficking carries significant legal penalties in Tennessee, especially when the crime resulted in substantial profits. In some cases, drug sales may result in federal rather than state charges, which carry the possibility of longer prison sentences. 

Penalties for trafficking in Tennessee vary by substance and amount as follows. 

Schedule I and II trafficking 

Both the federal and state government categorize drugs in schedules depending on their potential hazards and accepted medical uses. Tennessee imposes similar penalties for sale of Schedule I and Schedule II substances. Schedule I includes heroin and psychedelic drugs such as LSD, while Schedule II includes methamphetamines, cocaine, fentanyl and opiate-based substances. 

For a first conviction for selling or intending to distribute a Schedule I or II substance, the offender could receive five to 30 years in prison. If another person suffered death or serious bodily injury as a result of the crime, the minimum sentence is 20 years. 

A second sentence carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum life sentence. The maximum fine for a first offense is $5 million for an individual and $25 million for an organization. 

Schedule III, IV and V trafficking 

Schedule III includes anabolic steroids, Schedule IV includes prescription drugs such as Valium and Xanax, and Schedule V drugs include prescriptions such as Tylenol with codeine. The first offense for sale or intent to distribute substances in these schedules carries a minimum of one year and up to 10 years in prison. 

In addition to these penalties, a convicted offender must pay legal fees and restitution. The court can seize assets associated with drug trafficking proceeds. The person can also lose federal benefits for five years for a first trafficking conviction and 10 years for a second conviction, including licenses, contracts, grants and student loans. Depending on the amount of the substance in question, an offender may be subject to either state or federal charges. 

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