Tennessee's Drug Paraphernalia Laws

We all know that you could be arrested for possession, selling, or trafficking drugs. Drug crimes, however, aren’t restricted to the drugs themselves. You could be arrested for anything the cops consider “paraphernalia.” This is any item related to the use or distribution of drugs.

What follows is a brief breakdown of Tennessee’s drug paraphernalia laws, followed by effective defenses against paraphernalia charges.

What Is Considered Drug Paraphernalia in Tennessee?

There are several items the state may consider paraphernalia:

  • pipes
  • bongs
  • syringes
  • balloons
  • plastic bags

Furthermore, the state’s definition of paraphernalia includes activities, not just specific items. When connected to a controlled substance, the following behaviors are a form of paraphernalia:

  • storing
  • testing
  • planting
  • injecting
  • preparing
  • packaging
  • producing
  • cultivating
  • concealing
  • processing
  • propagating
  • manufacturing
  • ingesting or inhaling

Quite frankly, the state’s definition of paraphernalia is too broad. It generally restricts any items or behaviors that are connected to drug use. Most of these items are not illegal by themselves, but cops can make plenty of assumptions. If they believe you have them for drug use or distribution, they can jump to conclusions and make a false arrest.

Tennessee’s Drug Paraphernalia Penalties

Tennessee’s penalties change depending on whether you are charged with possession or distribution of paraphernalia.

Simply possessing alleged paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you could serve up to 11 months in jail and pay fines as high as $2,500.

Distributing paraphernalia is a Class E felony. This is the lowest of the state’s felonies, but it still carries prison time of up to six years. Its fines can go as high as $3,000, too.

Defenses Against a Drug Paraphernalia Charge

Challenge the Evidence

One of the easiest, most obvious routes of fighting a paraphernalia charge is creating doubt in the evidence. Regardless of whatever the police find, they’re making a pretty strong leap assuming that whatever else you have is drug paraphernalia.

For instance, let’s say you have baggies, scales, and so on. There could be any number of purposes for those items. Perhaps you are a baker, or you sell merchandise on Etsy, and you need these items to complete your transactions.

If the police made broad assumptions about anything they found on you, your attorney should easily be able to expose that in court.

A paraphernalia accusation is useless without the element of intent. Having a baggie is fine. Having a baggie for distributing drugs is a crime. You should always challenge any charge where intent is so crucial to the allegation. Get your attorney to explain the actual reason for what appears to be paraphernalia, and you may be able to preserve your freedom.

Challenge the Police’s Methods

Beyond questioning the police’s assumptions, you must also investigate their methods. Why, for instance, did they stop or search you? What was their probable cause? If they entered your home with a warrant, did they stay within the boundaries of that warrant, or did they go searching in places they should have left alone?

It’s always important to question the police’s methods. If they acted improperly, the case could be tossed out.

If you’re facing paraphernalia charges, reach out to our firm for help. You can schedule a free consultation by calling (931) 361-4477 or contacting us online.

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