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.