The Tennessee laws that govern drug crimes may not be the only factors in determining charges for an accused individual. Federal laws may apply as well. In some cases, the penalties related to federal charges may be more severe than those related to state drug laws. Both types of convictions may have significant consequences for years to come. State charges often occur for drug possession crimes whereas activities related to trafficking and distribution frequently lead to federal charges.
The severity of drug charges may relate to both an individual's actions and the type of drug involved. FindLaw lists several categories of drug crimes, such as possession, manufacturing and dealing. There may also be state or federal charges for importing or selling drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, syringes or rolling papers. Charges may also vary based on the drugs involved. For example, although marijuana is legal in some states, U.S. law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug, which means federal criminal charges for possession and distribution carry severe penalties.
In many cases, the circumstances of a drug arrest may affect whether the accused individual faces state or criminal charges. For example, federal drug trafficking charges may apply when the criminal activities cross state lines, making some aspects of the crime occur outside the jurisdiction of a single state. Arrests by a Drug Enforcement Administration officer may also lead to federal charges. A federal DEA officer may end up making an arrest as part of a task force operation that includes personnel from multiple agencies. The task force program that combines state and federal resources is one of the most effective elements of DEA law enforcement, and its influence may affect whether an individual faces state or federal charges.