Belmares Law, PLLC
Dickson Criminal Defense Lawyer

Making a federal case out of drug crimes

Tennessee and the federal government both have laws against many of the same activities. Nashville and Washington both frown upon growing marijuana plants in your attic. But why are crimes sometimes charged, tried and punished by Tennessee while other times they make a federal case out of it?

You probably want your case in Tennessee

Why the state handles your case instead of the feds, or vice versa, is complex and sometimes a matter of luck, good or bad. But the difference clearly matters.

You would usually rather that Tennessee arrests and prosecutes you rather than the federal government. Partly, the difference is in the severity of the sentences. For example, in Tennessee, cultivating 50 marijuana plants carries a prison sentence of between 3 to 15 years and a maximum fine of $100,000, compared to a maximum of 20 years and up to $1 million in the federal system for the same 50 plants.

As a result, with the help an attorney with experience in federal cases, you have a better chance of getting yourself out of federal court and into the Tennessee system, among other strategies to avoid the worst that the federal courts can dish out.

When you may found yourself in federal court

A variety of factors might put you in contact with federal prosecutors and judges. The most obvious is being arrested by federal agents in the first place.

As we’ve discussed before, certain locations (like National Parks), functions (like the U.S. mail) or travel (like interstate or international) are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Or perhaps someone under federal custody named you in hopes of getting a lighter sentence for themselves. You may also find yourself being watched and then arrested by a federal agent if your activities happen to be caught up in a larger “sting” leading to, for example, federal racketeering charges against somebody else, even someone you’ve never met.

Other times, a factor such as the quantity of illegal substances or the way they’re packaged may suggest to law enforcement that the product is meant for interstate or international distribution.

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