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October 10, 2011

Drug Free School Zone Laws Raise Stakes in Nashville

If someone finds themselves charged with felony drug possession in Nashville, Tennessee, chances are before his or her case ever goes to a jury trial that he or she will face amended charges with the enhancing language relating to the drug free school zone.
Years ago, Tennessee enacted the Drug Free School Zone laws aimed at enhancing the punishment for those that sell drugs near minors. No one can challenge the intent of the law ; however, there is nothing that prevents the application of such laws against virtually any criminal defendant in a city such as Nashville. The enhanced penalties increase the sentencing range by one classification, which can basically double the sentencing range and increased the applicable fines. The penalties also require mandatory jail time when charges might have otherwise allowed for the sentence to be served on probation.
Prosecutors can add the enhanced penalties when there is proof that the defendant’s criminal act was within 1000 feet of a public or private elementary school, middle school, high school; or public library, recreational center, park or child care. As one can imagine, in Nashville and other cities this 1000 feet boundary line can encompass almost an entire urban area. There is no requirement that the drug activity occur during school hours. Many cases stem from instances where individuals are simply driving down a major street. One might wonder if this was really the intent of the legislature, but regardless of that no one can question that the laws raise the stakes on almost every felony drug case in Nashville.
If you are charged with a felony drug possession charge, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. Vince Wyatt or David Raybin may be reach at 615-256-6666.