Month: December 2018

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What are the Collateral Consequences of a Drug Conviction?

We all know the basics. A drug conviction, whether for possession, distribution, or trafficking, can mean serious prison time. Offenders familiar with the system know a judge can also impose certain financial penalties, but do you know about the collateral consequences of a drug conviction? Are you prepared to lose your right to vote, hunt, or travel? Are you an immigrant prepared for deportation? You must consider all of these factors in deciding how to proceed in a drug offense case in Tennessee’s federal or state courts.

Not every criminal defense attorney fully explains the collateral consequences of a drug conviction. Before deciding whether to enter a guilty plea or proceed to trial, you’re entitled to all the facts. Knoxville defense attorney John Barnes’ priority is ensuring you and your family have all the facts necessary to make an informed decision regarding your drug charges. To schedule your free drug defense consultation, call his Knoxville office today at (865) 805-5703 or contact him online.

General Consequences of a Drug Conviction

Penalties for drug offenses differ based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Jurisdiction, whether federal or state
  • The substance involved
  • The weight of the substance
  • Distributive intent
  • Aggravating factors
  • Criminal history
  • Mitigating factors such as cooperation

Major drug convictions (felonies) generally include a prison sentence, probation, and certain administrative fines. Restitution, though mandatory in many criminal cases, isn’t typically ordered in drug offense cases. Restitution is defined as the compensation paid to the victim of a criminal offense for direct losses. This may include compensation for funeral costs, medical bills, rehabilitation, and property damage. However, drug offenders charged with lacing their substances and purveyors of synthetic cannabinoids, such as K2 or Spice, may have to pay medical restitution.

Minor offenses (misdemeanors and possession infractions) may result in probation, court-ordered counseling, small fines, and/or court-ordered rehabilitation. First-time minor offenders seldom face prison time for a non-violate drug offense; however, they still face the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

The Additional Legal Consequences of a Drug Conviction   

The seriousness of these collateral consequences often depends on whether you’ve been convicted of a felony offense. These offenses are punishable by more than a year in prison, but you don’t have to be sentenced to more than a year to become a convicted felon. In Tennessee and the United States, a felony conviction may carry the following additional consequences:

  • Loss of voting rights in all major elections
  • Inability to own a firearm, fireworks, or hunting gear
  • Inability to obtain a visa to travel overseas
  • Inability to travel to Canada or Mexico
  • Inability to obtain United States citizenship
  • Deportation and severe immigration consequences for non-citizens,
  • Failure to qualify for certain federal or state employment
  • Inclusion on the Tennessee Drug Offender Registry

Importantly, these unexpected consequences may also include the seizure of assets, fines, costs, and restitution. Any assets the government claims are linked to illegally obtained money may be seized, sometimes even if it’s a family asset. If you bought your car, home, or started a college fund for your child with money tainted by drug trafficking activities, these items are subject to seizure and sale. Your bank accounts may be frozen, and any attempt to transfer this money may implicate your family members. Even your family is subject to seizure orders if they’ve knowingly benefited for the fruits of an illegal enterprise.

Collateral & Unexpected Consequences of a Drug Conviction

The legal (de jure) consequences of a drug conviction are found in certain federal and state laws, regulations, and sentencing guidelines. However, the real (de facto) consequences of a drug conviction can’t be found in a book. Too many drug offenders accept or reject plea deals without understanding the true consequences of their actions, and it’s not always their fault. Court-appointed attorneys are overburdened and underpaid and seldom have the time necessary to explain the collateral consequences of your conviction. This can perpetuate frustration with the court system and discourage necessary lifestyle changes.

At Barnes Law, we neither abandon nor forget our clients. We’ve seen our clients struggle with the following unanticipated consequences of a drug conviction, and we will use our knowledge to ensure you’re making an informed decision about your drug charges. Think about how the following collateral consequences of a drug conviction may affect your life:  

  • Loss of a driving and/or hunting license – Will you lose your job? Your hobbies? Your ability to see your children?
  • Automatic disqualification from jobs
  • Extreme difficulty gaining entry into certain professions such as medicine and law
  • Difficulty with college admission and financial aid
  • Inability to leave the state during probation – Do you have out-of-state family you often visit? What if a job opportunity arises out of state?
  • Disqualification from certain state aid programs
  • Inability to join certain websites – you may be blocked from social media or dating websites as you rebuild your life
  • Rejection from certain private living facilities or even homes located near schools.

These difficulties can perpetuate the criminal cycle by preventing and discouraging offenders from seeking a different path. The mental, emotional, and psychological stigma associated with a drug conviction can also take its toll.

Fortunately, not every drug case results in a conviction. If the police violated your rights during your arrest or while they were investigating your case, it could result in all of the evidence they gathered against you being excluded from court. Similarly, there may be additional facts that you could allege that indicate that the drugs that were discovered were not actually in your possession, or if they were, that you were unaware of them. To determine whether these or any other defenses apply in your case, call Barnes Law to speak to an attorney today.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today At Barnes Law, we can help you understand all the consequences associated with your drug case. In addition, we’re committed to obtaining the best possible outcome in each case we handle and will not hesitate to case to trial if it’s in your best interest.

DUI Courtroom for Arraignment

Common Defenses to Serious Drug Charges

If you have been accused of the possession, distribution, manufacture, or cultivation of illegal drugs, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have any options. Typically, drug arrests occur after a search of a person’s person, vehicle, or home or after a lengthy investigation involving weeks or months or surveillance, so if you’ve been arrested, it’s completely understandable if you feel like a conviction is inevitable. Fortunately, this is often not the case.

It’s important to be aware of the fact that there are often legal defenses that apply to serious drug cases that may not be apparent to you unless you’ve had significant legal training and experience. It’s for this reason, if you’ve been arrested for any offense related to drugs, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. If you don’t, it’s possible that you will be convicted in spite of a violation of your constitutional rights.

If you are convicted of a drug crime, you could be facing serious consequences, including the following:

  • Probation
  • Significant fines
  • Mandatory drug testing
  • Community service
  • Jail time
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Problems renting an apartment
  • The loss or denial of a professional license

Some of the potential defense that may apply to your drug case are discussed below. For more information and to discuss the specifics of your case with a Knoxville criminal defense attorney, call Barnes Law today at 865-805-5703 or send us an email through our online contact form.

4th Amendment Violations

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution places significant limits on the circumstances under which the police can search or seize a person or his or her property. Typically, the police need a warrant to conduct a search or seize a person or property unless an exception applies. When the police violate this rule, it can result in any evidence they gathered be suppressed, meaning that it cannot be used in court. In cases where the discovery of drugs or other contraband was the result of an illegal search, the prosecution is typically forced to drop the case due to a lack of admissible evidence. Importantly, 4th Amendment law is extremely complicated and violations can be difficult to spot, so it’s important for anyone that’s been arrested after a search or seizure to have the facts of their case reviewed by an experienced attorney.

Lack of Knowledge of Possession

Typically, laws that prohibit the possession of certain drugs require that the accused have actual knowledge of the fact that he or she was in possession of the drugs in question. How could you be in possession of something and not know it? For example, your friend could surreptitiously place drugs into your glove box and accidentally leave them there, or someone could slip a pill bottle into your purse or backpack without you knowing it. While these examples seem farfetched, these situations and others like them happen more often than one may expect, and many people are shocked to find themselves accused of possessing illegal drugs.

Fortunately, there are ways that an experienced attorney can cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertion that you were aware of the drugs of which you are accused of possessing. As it’s impossible to read a person’s mind, a lack of knowledge can only be inferred from the circumstances. Some of the circumstances that could lead a judge or jury to doubt the prosecution’s assertion that you were aware of the drugs include the fact that you do not have a history of drug use, a lack of evidence that you had recently used the substance in question (i.e., a clean drug test), or strong evidence that the drugs belonged to someone else who had access to the place where the drugs were found. In order to determine whether a lack of knowledge defense would be viable in your case, you should discuss the facts of your case with an experienced attorney.

Entrapment

While the police are allowed to conduct sting operations, they’re not allowed to induce people to commit crimes that they would not have otherwise committed. When this occurs, defendants may be able to assert the defense of entrapment, which can result in the dismissal of the case or an acquittal. Whether entrapment occurred in a given case is often an extremely complicated legal question, so if you believe you were induced in any way to commit a crime, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.

In Some Cases, Negotiating a Favorable Plea Bargain is the Best Option

Sometimes, there are no viable legal defenses to raise in a drug case. This is not to say that an attorney cannot help you obtain a better result to your case than you would obtain on your own, however. A lawyer familiar with Tennessee criminal defense practice can often negotiate a favorable plea bargain that can significantly reduce the consequences that you are facing. In addition, an attorney can advise you to take certain steps prior to your first court appearance that can increase your chances of a lenient sentence. For example, drug offenders who voluntarily enter a rehabilitation program and have evidence of abstinence from using drugs or alcohol are often viewed much more favorably by prosecutors and the court. In fact, a lawyer may even be able to get you into drug court, a diversionary program that, if completed successfully, could result in court completely dismissing the case against you.

Call Barnes Law Today to Speak with a Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney If you have been accused of a drug crime in Tennessee, you are facing serious consequences that could have an impact on your life for decades to come. John Barnes is an experienced criminal defense attorney who is committed to helping his clients protect their legal rights and move on with their lives with as little legal consequence as possible. In some cases, this means fighting for an acquittal at trial, while in others, it means negotiating the most favorable plea bargain possible, and John is both an aggressive litigator and a skilled negotiator.