Drug-Free Zone Violations
In Tennessee, the penalties imposed for a drug crime conviction may depend on a number of factors. Many people do not realize, however, that the location of the offense may impact sentencing in a drug case. Under the Tennessee Drug-Free School Zone Act, enhanced penalties are imposed for drug crimes that occur near schools, parks, and other locations. Defendants convicted of possession with intent to sell or other drug offenses may therefore face stiffer sentences for Drug-Free Zone violations than they would outside of these boundaries. Nashville drug crime lawyer Bernie McEvoy understands that the stakes are higher in cases involving Drug-Free Zone violations. He is available to provide dedicated defense advocacy for people arrested for Drug-Free Zone Violations in Davidson and Williamson Counties.Drug-Free Zone Violations in Tennessee
The Tennessee Drug-Free School Zone Act was enacted in 1995 with the express purpose of providing an environment for children in which they can learn, play, and enjoy themselves without the danger and distraction of illegal drug activity. To achieve this purpose, the Drug-Free School Zone Act provides mandatory minimum and enhanced sentences for drug crimes that occur in a drug-free zone. Critics of the law argue that it does little to deter drug activity around minors, as many offenders do not realize they are within a drug-free zone, and most drug cases do not involve school children. Nevertheless, and despite recent support to reform Tennessee Drug-Free School Zone laws, the Act currently remains in effect and therefore must be considered in cases alleging drug offenses that occur within a Drug-Free Zone.
Under the Act, Drug-Free Zones include the grounds and facilities of any school, as well as areas within 1,000 square feet of the property comprising a public or private secondary school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, child care agency, public library, recreational center, or park. The enhanced penalties provided under the Drug-Free School Zone Act only apply to Tennessee criminal offenses for manufacturing, delivering, selling, or possessing with the intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell a controlled substance. It does not matter whether or not a minor was involved or if a child witnessed the alleged criminal offense. Further, the prosecution is not required to prove that the defendant intended to commit a drug offense within the Drug-Free Zone, or even that the defendant knew they were within a Drug-Free Zone.Penalties and Sentencing Enhancements
Any of the aforementioned Tennessee drug crimes committed within a Drug-Free Zone may be punishable as one class higher than the offense is typically classified under the Tennessee drug offenses statute. In addition to enhanced sentencing for the underlying drug crime conviction, the defendant may be subject to penalties for a Drug-Free School Zone Act violation. These penalties include a hefty fine and a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Convicted offenders may face harsh fines and the prospect of no parole until completion of a minimum sentence specified by law.
Avoiding the penalties associated with a Drug-Free Zone violation typically begins with fighting the underlying drug charges. A defense attorney can fight against a conviction and work to mitigate the consequences of a Drug-Free Zone violation. As a practical matter, the severe penalties associated with Drug-Free Zone violations may be used as leverage by the prosecution to get the defendant to take a plea agreement. A criminal defense lawyer with experience handling Drug-Free Zone violations can provide guidance and assist in negotiating a fair plea agreement.Nashville Lawyer for Drug Charges
Defending against the underlying drug charge may be necessary to avoid the enhanced penalties of a Drug-Free Zone violation. Nashville defense attorney Bernie McEvoy can assist defendants charged with meth crimes, drug trafficking or other criminal offenses in Franklin, Nashville, and other locations throughout Davidson and Williamson Counties. Schedule a free consultation regarding a criminal legal matter by calling (615) 255-9595 during business hours or (615) 804-8779 on evenings and weekends, or by contacting us online.