The key differences between drug possession and trafficking

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Federal Crimes |

Drug possession and drug trafficking are both crimes in Tennessee, but they are each separate crimes with separate elements that the prosecution needs to prove for the court to convict you of either crime.

However, the severity of the crimes varies significantly, which results in major differences in how the court handles the case, who handles the case, and the penalties involved.

Drug possession

Possession means that you have drugs on your person or in a place you have access to and can control, like your house or your car. It means you are holding on to these drugs for your own use.

Drug trafficking

Trafficking is a much more serious offense. It means that not only do you have the drugs in your possession, but you are also selling them or moving them around.

Possession or trafficking?

There are certain things that help law enforcement distinguish possession from trafficking. For example, if you have a few drugs in your possession and nothing else, it is likely that the evidence points to possession.

Evidence of trafficking

However, if law enforcement finds a significant number of drugs on you or on property you have control over, the law can reasonably assume you plan on selling those drugs.

In addition, police investigate whether the drugs have packaging that resembles items intended for sale, such as small bags with price tags.

If police find a lot of cash in the location where the drugs are or any location you are associated with and have reasons to believe you are trafficking drugs, they may also assume that this is a larger operation than simply possession.

If you have tools, like scales for weighing, lists of people who owe you money, or other indicators that you are running an underground drug business, police may confidently believe you are not only in possession of the drugs but have intent to move them around or sell them to others.

While certain differences between possession and trafficking make it obvious that it is one or the other, sometimes it is not so clear-cut. When the line between possession and trafficking is thin, it is critical to have an advocate that can help you navigate the legal process.


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