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Criminal Justice Current Events

Still No Additional Evidence to Support Tennessee Law Enforcement Agency’s May 30th Claim of Accidental Airborne Fentanyl Exposure Overdose

On June 18, a news report was released by Huntsville, Alabama’s WHNT 19 News claiming a deputy had overdosed on fentanyl while searching a suspect. After searching a suspect’s pockets, the deputy allegedly caused a powder containing fentanyl to fly up into his face, where he inadvertently inhaled it, causing an overdose.

In the online report, Lincoln County officials released the alleged body cam footage from the incident via WHNT. Only one angle was released of the alleged overdose from the perspective of the officer. It’s dark, nondescript, and short.

Most alarmingly, no suspects were charged with drug possession, assaulting a law enforcement officer, or anything else.

No medical or toxicology reports or updates have been shared. Outside of the aforementioned article and video on WHNT’s website and, no other mentions of Deputy Trent Layman’s inadvertent run-in with fentanyl have been released online. Tennessee Harm Reduction called Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department in the days following the WHNT release, though received no other information about the incident.

Our goal is not to deny Mr. Layman’s victimhood — it’s to obtain more evidence of this alleged incident happening. We have no toxicology reports, medical opinions, or updates from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. This currently-unsubstantiated claim has unarguably negatively influenced public opinion even further against drugs. Thus far, the small-town Tennessee sheriff’s department has gone unchallenged on this issue.

We want additional evidence from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department to support the legitimacy of this May 30 event.

Hysteria Around Fatal Fentanyl Contamination via Transdermal and Respiratory Exposure Has Galvanized America Against Evidence-Based Solutions for the Opioid Crisis

Reports of front-line law enforcement officers overdosing from touching or inhaling illicitly-manufactured fentanyl have proliferated across American local news circuits for several years now.

An American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology paper posits that opioid overdose from inadvertent exposure to airborne fentanyl isn’t scientifically feasible as part of a 2017 safety guide for first responders.

Spreading such reports attracts public support for the War on Drugs, often in the form of further criminalizing people found in possession of fentanyl.

Despite evidence-based suggestions from the Deug Policy Alliance, Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Marsha Blackburn (R) co-introduced a draconian bill increasing criminal penalties against fentanyl and fentanyl analogs in mid-2019.

Two Republican U.S. Representatives from Ohio, Steve Chabot and Bob Latta, introduced FIGHT Fentanyl Act (H.R. 5771) in hopes of permanently banning fentanyl analogues on a federal level in Feb. 2020. “Fentanyl-like substances” were temporarily banned by the DEA in 2018, which is set to expire in 2021. This would make punishing fentanyl analogs much easier, more harshly criminalizing even those simply in “possession of fentanyl-like drugs.”

“We need to focus on evidence-based harm reduction policies and programs like syringe exchanges and supervised consumption sites,” says Sara Alese, Tennessee Recovery Alliance’s executive director.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department can be contacted at (931) 433-9821.

Categories
Criminal Justice Current Events

As Part of Drug Bust, South Carolina Indicts 3 on Wrongful Naloxone Possession Charges

On Wednesday, July 22, an Ashley Nichole Pulliam, William Keith Gary, Jr., and Juan Francisco Esquivel were each charged by the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department with one count of Possession of a Schedule III Controlled Substance … for possessing naloxone.

39 people in total were arrested. Pulliam, Gary, and Esquivel were each given 12 charges in total; each three share the same list of 12 charges.

The life-saving drug has been legal in the Palmetto State since at least 2016, when the South Carolina Joint Naloxone Protocol was written into law.

These charges are alarming, as the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department seemingly doesn’t want to encourage people at high risk of opioid overdose to carry it. Further, a legal precedent to wrongly charge individuals found in possession of naloxone could be established if these charges stick.

We must urge Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department and South Carolina legislators to reverse these charges.

Criminal Charges for Naloxone — a Bad Look

Naloxone (Narcan) is a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdose. It’s been distributed across the United States — and the world — in response to opioid overdose deaths. South Carolina, like every state, has legalized naloxone. Why are people being charged for possessing this life-saving drug, one that has no known contraindications outside of naloxone allergy?

The South Carolina Joint Naloxone Protocol, pursuant to § 44-130-40 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription or patient-specific instrutions, making naloxone legal in South Carolina. The most recent iteration of this law was written in 2016.

Marc Burrows, operator of South Carolina’s only syringe exchange, Challenges Inc., says, “This is unfortunate. Naloxone saves lives, and it’s already legal here. Why were these three charged for naloxone possession, of all things?”

Naloxone possession is legally protected by law. You can’t get “high” from naloxone. Rather, it removes opioids from the brain’s opioid receptors, thus reversing overdose. It has no known major contraindications, meaning it doesn’t interact with other drugs. People can be allergic to naloxone, though it’s rarely serious.

“Operation Groundhog Day”

Many law enforcement agencies, especially in rural America, make annual or otherwise regular “drug roundups” where they indict drug-involved people, mainly sellers, on various drug-related charges.

This operation had been in the works for some time, says Fox Carolina, a local news outlet covering the Spartanburg, South Carolina area.

READ: Tennessee Sheriff’s Department claims deputy suffered overdose due to accidental airborne fentanyl exposure, despite blatant lack of evidence.

Categories
Criminal Justice From Personal Experience

Probation From a Drug User’s Perspective — Failures of the Criminal Justice System

Ostensibly, the purpose of the criminal justice system is to get people’s lives on track. To right criminals’ wrongs. To bring justice to the world. That kind of stuff.

A common alternative to jail is probation, whereby criminals are required to maintain employment, check in with probation officers regularly, and be subject to drug screens.

I’ve found myself on probation three times now, all for drug use — more specifically, for violating T.C.A. §40-7-124, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. I’ve never been in trouble for anything else.

What’s probation been like for me? Has it made me a better person? Has it curbed my drug use? Has it done anything good for me, at all?

Let’s find out.

About Me

I’m a long-term drug user. I’ve been using every day for over 9 years now. Opioids have been my primary drug of choice for about 6 years, the past 2.5 of which have been hallmarked by regular intravenous heroin use.

I’ve always been low-income. My mom was a long-term, seriously-problematic drug user who Dad and I left when I was 9. I am bisexual and am from rural Tennessee. I didn’t have insurance for much of my childhood and am still uninsured. I bring these things up because the stories of people like me aren’t well-represented.

I’m 24 years old and live in Martin, Tennessee — that’s in Northwest Tennessee, 10 minutes south of Kentucky and about an hour east of Arkansas — and am a self-employed writer.

How’d I Get on Probation in the First Place? — Chapter 1

In 2014, an on-campus college roommate reached out to either law enforcement or the University of Tennessee at Martin’s housing staff for my on-campus, in-dormitory use of cannabis.

Four RAs — resident assistants, as they’re called — marched into my dorm alongside two police officers. They claimed it was a routine room inspection and found a roach and some papers.

A few hours later, I found myself at Crisp Hall, UT Martin’s public safety building, slapped with my first two criminal charges: possession of controlled substance, Schedule VI, and possession of drug paraphernalia (violations of T.C.A. §39-17-418 and §39-17-425, respectively).

A month later, in July 2014, I found myself in Weakley County General Sessions court. The drug possession charge was dropped, thankfully, but the drug paraphernalia stuck. I was given a year’s probation and roughly $1,200 in probation and court fees.

I was forced to sign a probation contract and a plea agreement.

A month later, I was due to appear at my probation officer’s office for a monthly check-in. The probation office was a third-party entity which profited from its supervision of probationers.

What Was Probation Like? — Chapter 1

I was asked to present at that third-party entity’s office every month. I was required to pay an installment towards my probation and court fees every month. I was also forced to take an alcohol and drug evaluation, formally known as the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI), at another third-party location not associated with the probation supervisory service provide.

Fortunately, because I was enrolled in courses at UT Martin, things like the SASSI evaluation was free at the school’s mental health department, Student Health & Counseling Services.

If you aren’t familiar with the SASSI, it’s similar to a fill-in-the-bubbles, Scantron-type test like you’d take in high school or college. You can google it if you’re interested.

Due to scoring high on the SASSI, I was asked to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings twice weekly. This persisted for about two months before I was able to stop attending.

I never got a drug test. The probation officer didn’t want to interfere in my life. I think she understood that drug use shouldn’t be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

She — well, really, her employer and “the system” — just wanted money. She told me that from the jump. I’d heard people say it before, but it was at this point I understood that probation was all about money.

Every time I presented, I was scared I’d be drug tested. As a daily cannabis consumer — at the time, at least — I certainly would have failed every time. Although I hadn’t been formally diagnosed at this point, I very much dealt with at least one anxiety disorder and could have benefited from seeing a counselor. I’m glad the resources for mental health treatment were available to me at the time, but, due to stigma associated with seeking help for mental health disorders that are especially prevalent here in rural Tennessee, I hadn’t, at all, considered it.

I had to drive about 10 minutes from my place of residence to the probation officer’s place of work for monthly visits.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

The only thing remotely helpful I got from probation was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings for the first time. However, since I wasn’t ready to quit using drugs, I didn’t get anything from them.

I should have been asked to undergo a full mental health evaluation. This would have highlighted the underlying issues as to why I was using drugs.

Many probationers are unable to show up every month and pay money. This particular office required payment in the form of a money order, making things even more difficult for people who don’t have access to resources like transportation.

Many probationers fit this bill.

How’d I Get on Probation in the First Place? — Chapter 2

In March 2019, I got pulled over in Milan, Tennessee, for a seatbelt violation. Stupid me.

The officer asked to search. I said no. They brought a K9 and it alerted to the presence of drugs. I was found with “morphine” residue — was actually heroin — in a “cooker,” or a blank aluminum bottle cap that some use to dissolve drugs into an injectable solution, for which I was given possession of drug paraphernalia.

After that — and only after that — even though I was driving just fine, I was given the three standardized DUI field tests. I was charged with DUI, a total BS charge. I was asked to provide a blood sample to which I refused and was given Implied Consent, another BS charge due to the fact I shouldn’t have been charged with DUI in the first place.

I wasn’t able to prove that the vehicle was insured, although it was, and was charged with that, too.

I was put in jail then, luckily, bonded out thanks to help from my dad.

After monthly court hearings from April to July, I was given a plea deal of only possession of drug paraphernalia. My public defender, Jamie Kay Berkley — who was a great public defender, by the way; I can’t say enough good things about her — recommended that I take that plea deal.

Probation costs were about $500 and court fees were about $650. So, I’m working on paying off a total of roughly $1,150 for being found in possession of drug paraphernalia.

Not to mention the roughly $250 my dad was charged for bailing me out.

So, really, a total of $1,400. All for using drugs. Wow.

Oh, wait — I got my girlfriend’s car impounded, costing her another $200.

$1,600 total for using drugs.

God damn.

What Is Probation Like? — Chapter 2

I’m asked to present at a local, third-party entity’s office that provides supervisory services to Gibson County General Sessions court. This entity profits from providing these services.

This office is in Milan, a full 35 minutes away from where I live. I’ve been given one urine test so far, in the five or six months I’ve been on this probation, which was sent off to a lab that uses GCMS (gas chromatography, mass spectrometry) testing. GCMS is as strict as it gets in terms of urine testing, from what I understand.

The screen tested for the presence of five or six drugs and/or their metabolites.

I’m also forced to pay monthly installments toward court fees and probation expenses every month.

Again, I was asked to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation. I had to pay $50 to a third-party entity this time. The counselor’s recommendation — the counselor who administered the test, that is — was for me to attend NA meetings regularly if I’m unable to abstain from the use of drugs, which, fortunately, I have been.

After a month-and-a-half of being on probation, I was arrested yet again for possession of drug paraphernalia. You can read the full story at “A Law Every Tennessean Should Know About,” but I shouldn’t have been charged with this because of T.C.A. 40–7–124 (that’s pronounced T C A, title 40, chapter 7, section 124, for the record).

T.C.A. 40–7–124 is a 2015 law that prevents Tennesseans who inform a presiding law enforcement officer (i.e., one that’s pulled you over or otherwise stopped you) about your possession of syringes that you’ve used as drug paraphernalia from being evidence used to charge you for possession of drug paraphernalia. Once being pulled over or otherwise stopped and before being searched, if you inform the officer about being in possession of syringes, you can’t be charged with or prosecuted for T.C.A. 39–17–425, possession of drug paraphernalia.

I should add that, due to my indigence (see: being broke), I couldn’t afford an attorney or to bail out. Because I had to visit my probation officer within 13 days of my arrest — remember how I’m required to check in every month? It just so happened that I was 13 days away from my next check-in date — and couldn’t afford to wait in jail to be appointed a public defender, I had to plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia, giving me on yet another drug paraphernalia charge.

It also put me on yet another probation. I was scared at this point. I’m not one to get arrested very often — or at least that’s what I thought.

This led me to enter a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program, which practice opioid replacement therapy — a “Suboxone clinic,” in other words — just 4 days after being arrested. This was a great decision, but boydid it cost a lot of money. Also, I immediately began attending local Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

In 10 days, I’d gone to 6 meetings. I had financed the then-$843-a-month initial cost of entering a Suboxone program and filling a month’s prescription, not to mention manned up by immediately ceasing my heroin use following this arrest.

Despite these two factors, the probation officer couldn’t have cared less about my two accomplishments. I think these two things say a lot. A hell of a lot.

But the PO didn’t give a damn. That broke my heart.

Why wasn’t I given a pass on having to pay for, travel to, and take an alcohol and drug evaluation?

Why was I greeted with the words, “The only reason I didn’t violate you is because I didn’t have time to get around to it”?

Why wasn’t I congratulated for what I’d done?

Why wasn’t I, at the very least, given a high-five?

Why weren’t the costs of that MAT program supplemented by the state or, even, the City of Milan/Gibson County, the jurisdiction in which I was already on probation, or the City of Jackson/Madison County, the jurisdiction in which I had just been arrested?

Why wasn’t I even referred to a single fucking opioid replacement therapy practitioner?

I’m still on this probation today — well, both probations. I know it’s not wise to discuss it, but, what other drug users are sharing stories about their very personal experiences with the social services-criminal justice alliance? There are a few, certainly, but it’s important for me to share this information with the world.

I think it might help improve the treatment of drug use in modern American society — at least that’s what I hope.

TL;DR

I was wrongfully thrown in jail for DUI and Implied Consent charges that I 100% didn’t deserve. I incurred costs totaling $1,600 for eventually being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

I very much did deserve the drug paraphernalia charge.

Although I could have been violated and ultimately sent to jail for up to a year, my probation officer chose not to do so. I lucked up in this regard, in my opinion, although I’m not familiar with the personal experiences of other people who have been in this situation (i.e., being on probation, violating the terms of that probation, and what their probation officer or the presiding court of law decided to do).

I’m still on this probation today, which is slated to end about six months from now.

How’d I Get on Probation in the First Place? — Chapter 3

I mentioned above that I got arrested in September 2019 for being found in possession of drug paraphernalia.

Again, because I acted in concordance with T.C.A. 40–7–124, I shouldn’t have been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia or prosecuted for it. However, due to this law’s unfortunate obscurity, the arresting deputy wrongfully charged me with possession of drug paraphernalia.

Here’s how it happened.

I was leaving Jackson and was pulled over by a Madison County Sheriff’s Department deputy for speeding.

Speeding was the issue. If I weren’t speeding, I wouldn’t have been pulled over, and I would have made it home that night. Live and learn, hopefully, at least, right?

I was asked to consent to a search, to which I declined. A K9 was brought to the scene, where it alerted to the presence of drugs. No drugs were found. No drugs were in my vehicle, either. No drugs had been recently carried in the vehicle, too. Still, the K9 alerted.

Funny how K9s always alert on my vehicle. I’m sure it’s 100% legitimate and not bullshit at all.

Anyways.

I ended up getting charged with possession of drug paraphernalia due to being found with syringes, for which I was thrown in jail.

Every Tuesday morning — or maybe once every other Tuesday — recently-arrested, alleged criminals are arraigned in Madison County General Sessions court. Fortunately, it was Monday night.

Again, because I had to meet with my probation officer before I would have been appointed a public defender or found myself in court again, I was forced to plead guilty to a charge I legally — not just whining here, to be clear, I’m trying to reiterate that there was no legal basis for my charge thanks to T.C.A. 40–7–124 — didn’t deserve.

What Is Probation Like? — Chapter 3

I got put on unsupervised probation and was forced to pay roughly $600 over the course of a year.

I’m still paying this off.

The person whom I talked to when signing a probation agreement told me I’d have to pay $200-something within 3 weeks and pay the remainder off within a year. I was only able to pay that first installment about 2.5 months after my arrest, but I never faced any flak from any court staff members or probation officers, fortunately.

Since this is unsupervised probation, I’m not required to check in on a monthly basis or potentially be subject to drug screens.

I haven’t been provided any resources by Madison County, the City of Jackson, or any other entity.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to undergo another fucking alcohol and drug evaluation.

TL;DR

I was already on probation for possession of drug paraphernalia. A month-and-a-half in, I was arrested on another charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Due to my indigence, I had to plead guilty to that charge, though T.C.A. §40–7–124, a 5-year-old law, should have legally protected me from getting charged with it in the first place, let alone prosecuted for it.

Thanks to the fact I pled guilty, I paid about half of what I likely would have been charged in court fees — at least according to the court lady (I’m unaware of her official title) I talked to after pleading — if I had exercised my legal right to not plead guilty, given I would have ended up being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

Probation has been unsupervised, making things easier on me.

I wasn’t able to bond out, either, which also incentivized me to plead guilty.

How Could Probation Be Improved?

This question necessitates a complex, multi-faceted answer. There’s no simple fix for the modern American probation system.

The answer to this starts with not treating drug use as a criminal issue. At least, that is, where drug use doesn’t directly hurt the people who decide to use drugs.

For example, if people drive or work while drunk or fucked up and put people’s lives at stake in the process, criminal charges are at least sometimes appropriate. I don’t think this should be the first line of treatment, but it should certainly be available.

First off, and most importantly, I think all drugs should be made legal. This largely prevents almost-entirely-harmless problem drug users such as myself from being sentenced to probation as a result of drug use.

However, if drug decriminalization and legalization are off the table, here’s how the treatment of drug users by the American criminal justice system could be improved — in my opinion, of course.

Transportation issues shouldn’t be a factor. People shouldn’t be penalized for being unable to present at regularly-scheduled meetings with probation officers. People shouldn’t have to pay for things like alcohol and drug evaluations if they’re indigent. If probationers don’t have transportation, probation officers should come to them, or required meetings should be less frequent to make it more possible for probationers to actually attend them.

People should be required to have a full-scale psychiatric evaluation performed — not at their own cost, given they’re indigent, if not at no cost to everybody, regardless of financial standing — to uncover mental and physical health issues that lead to self-medication through drug use and other problematic forms of drug use.

Probationers should be able to consume cannabis, at the very least, if done so in an overall safe manner. I think mental health professionals should be involved in making this judgment, as chronic cannabis use can very well result in the worsening of existing mental health issues or the development of other disorders that weren’t previously present.

More specifically, long-term opioid users such as myself should be able to consume cannabis, as it’s been proven to improve the long-term substance use outcomes of people with opioid use disorders like me. I say this because cannabis very rarely injures or kills users, unlike opioids, especially unregulated opioids, like what are available to modern American illicit opioid users. Cannabis is a fine alternative to opioids in such people. Much research proven this to be true.

There are potential negative outcomes of this, though the benefits far outweigh the cons.

The high costs of court fees and probation fees make life difficult for long-term low-income substance use disorder sufferers like me. Thanks to these fees, in part, I struggle to afford paying for medication-assisted treatment program enrollment, which quite literally saves my life.

I also struggle to pay for everything else, in general, since probation diverts my money to pay wages of probation officers and ultimately end up as profit in the pockets of people who own third-party supervisory services businesses.

There are many other ways to improve probation. This isn’t an exhaustive list of the means that could improve modern American outcomes of people on probation in terms of long-term success.

What Is Probation Doing Right?

I like that alcohol and drug evaluations (e.g., SASSI) are required, but only because they are part of a comprehensive mental health evaluation.

Requiring people to maintain employment and show up to meetings on time instills a sense of responsibility in probationers.

Some probation officers who are nice, not intimidating, easy to talk to, understanding, and genuinely interested in the long-term positive outcome of their probationers — that’s the minority, most definitely — really do help correct probationers’ bad behaviors and instill good habits in them.

Probation should be a punishment that steers people away from making the bad decisions that resulted in their criminal charges. It shouldn’t suck money from their already-tight budgets, add charges onto their criminal histories, and otherwise make success more difficult to achieve.

Probation does some things right, but we need probation reform.

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Criminal Justice Drug User Advocacy From Personal Experience The Volunteer State

A Law Every Tennessean Should Know About — T.C.A. § 40-7-124

I’m not an attorney. I’ve never practiced law.

As a long-term drug user, unfortunately, I’ve had a few run-ins with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Many drug users, especially those who suffer from substance use disorder and have for a long time, share these same legal struggles.

In my nine-plus years of regular drug use, one thing I’ve learned is that the average drug user spreads far more misinformation about drugs than they do truthful, accurate information about drugs. Also, laypeople — whether they use drugs or not — don’t know much about the law, generally speaking.

In this article, I want to shed light on a relatively new law codified within the state of Tennessee — the state’s laws are codified within Tennessee Code Annotated, for the record — called T.C.A. § 40-7-124.

Why Should You Know About It?

T.C.A. § 40-7-124 — that’s pronounced as Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 40, Chapter 7, Section 124 — protects drug users from getting popped with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor (as much as 1 year in jail, $2,500) as long as they’re honest with law enforcement officers about what they have in their possession.

To best understand T.C.A. § 40-7-124, please read the entirety of this article. It also wouldn’t hurt to google “T.C.A. § 40-7-124” and read what you can about the law elsewhere, too.

You can pronounce this law as Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 40, Chapter 7, Section 124. I struggled with trying to say it out loud after learning about it, but there weren’t any readily-available resources that were easy to understand. Still, to be honest, I am not 100% sure if this pronunciation is correct. If I’m wrong, tell me and I’ll change it — at least we’ll finally have some closure.

What Is T.C.A. § 40-7-124?

This law protects people who are caught with syringes or other sharp objects that have been used as drug paraphernalia from getting charged with being in possession of drug paraphernalia for those objects, though you must inform law enforcement that you’re in possession of such objects before you get searched.

For example, let’s say you’re in possession of a razor blade used to chop up cocaine, heroin, pills, or meth, or a syringe used to inject such illicit drugs. Before you get searched, you inform the law enforcement officer who pulled you over or otherwise apprehended you of your possession of such items. You are not legally allowed to be charged with or prosecuted for being in possession of drug paraphernalia, codified in Tennessee Code Annotated as T.C.A. § 39-17-425, since you informed that officer of the presence of that razor blade or syringe.

Keep in mind that you very much can get charged with being in possession of drug paraphernalia for other drug paraphernalia not covered by T.C.A. § 40-7-124, such as a plate used to chop illicit drugs upon, a straw used to snort illicit drugs, and so on. Also, if you’re in possession of actual drugs and you get caught with them in this situation, you’ll likely be charged with being in possession of such drugs — T.C.A. § 40-7-124 doesn’t protect you against everything that’s drug-related.

What’s the Purpose of T.C.A. § 40-7-124?

Politicians and other governmental figures want to protect law enforcement officers from being exposed to used syringes or other harmful objects. Syringes are sharp and, obviously, can cause physical harm, even if they’re 100% sterile. However, people don’t carry syringes for no reason — in most cases, that is — and usually intend to use syringes for the administration of illicit drugs, hormones, insulin, etc.

This Tennessee drug law came about in 2015 with the intention of protecting law enforcement officers — the uniformed public servants who do work tough, dangerous jobs — working jurisdictions within the state of Tennessee from being exposed to objects that are very much capable of spreading blood-borne diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis C.

What Happens if You Get Arrested Despite the Protections Afforded by § T.C.A. 40-7-124?

Ultimately, if you want to reduce the risk of getting arrested, you should never travel with drugs or drug paraphernalia. However, this simply isn’t feasible! We drug users have to source drugs and drug paraphernalia somehow.

Most often, we have to drive to where the drugs are or otherwise transport ourselves to them to source them.

Anyways — what happens if you get arrested despite playing by the rules of § T.C.A. 40-7-124?

Let’s assume you only get arrested for being in violation of T.C.A. § 39-17-425. In laymen’s terms, this simply means you got arrested for the misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

In most jurisdictions, as we frequent fliers of the criminal justice system here in Tennessee know, you’ll likely be given anywhere from six months’ to a year’s probation, along with court fees. You can choose to plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia so you can quickly get back to living in the real world. Many of us are forced to plead guilty in such situations to return to our jobs, parenting, and other real-world obligations that we all have to take care of.

If You Can Afford to Bail Out

Bail out as soon as possible. Hire an attorney who is aware of T.C.A. § 40-7-124. If they’re not already aware of this law, hire another one.

With the help of an attorney, you should be okay.

Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney or otherwise legally approved by the state of Tennessee to provide legal advice. Do not take any information listed in this article or on this website as legal advice. The only people who can provide reputable, reliable legal advice are people sanctioned by the state of Tennessee to practice law.

If You Can’t Afford to Bail Out

If you’re willing to sit in jail for anywhere from a week to a month, by all means, do it! With a competent public defender’s help, given that you did comply with T.C.A. § 40-7-124, you shouldn’t be prosecuted for being in possession of drug paraphernalia. After all, T.C.A. § 40-7-124 does prevent people in such situations from being charged with or prosecuted for being in possession of drug paraphernalia.

However, most of us in Tennessee aren’t willing to do this.

Most of us are also too poor to afford legal representation. There are, however, ways for impoverished Tennesseeans to seek out free legal assistance.

Most drug users in Northwest Tennessee (NWTN) are simply too poor to bail out of jail and pay for an attorney. NWTN is simply a greatly-impoverished area. Considering that drug users, as a socioeconomic class, don’t have the same access to financial and other resources, especially here in NWTN, you’ll likely fit under this category — not being able to afford posting cash bail.

That’s Right — Unfortunately, As It Stands, We’re Shit Outta Luck

Again, I’m not an attorney, and I certainly hope I’m not acting like one.

As it stands, even though T.C.A. § 40-7-124 should protect active drug users from being in possession of sharp objects used as drug paraphernalia from getting charged with or prosecuted for being in possession of drug paraphernalia, T.C.A. § 39-17-425, it’s not helping us.

The only thing we can do — by “we,” I mean everybody interested in harm reduction or drug policy, active drug users, recovering drug users, family members and friends of drug users, etc. — is strive to educate laypeople, law enforcement officers, local and state-level politicians, active drug users, and everybody else here on planet Earth about T.C.A. § 40-7-124.

What Can We Do?

Also, anybody and everybody who plans on talking about this stuff to others, whether that be on a public forum like Facebook or Twitter or in real-life conversations with family members, friends, community members, coworkers, peers, or others, make sure to do so in a friendly, calm, welcoming, well-thought-out manner!

Keep in mind that, as far as law enforcement agents are concerned, they regularly hear backtalk and criticism from individuals and society at large. Also, they are the only people who actually enforce laws for a living. They’ve been trained to do this, likely are required to be trained or educated on an ongoing basis, and quite literally put their health and welfare on the line while enforcing laws.

Some, if not many, are generally not willing to listen to people who are not professional law enforcement officers talk about laws and their enforcement in real-world scenarios.

The best way — as far as I know — to get through to pliable, open-minded law enforcement officers would be to first approach friends and family members who are in the field about T.C.A. § 40-7-124 and similar laws.

If you talk to or work with law enforcement regularly, you know exactly how to handle this. For the rest of us who aren’t fortunate enough to be well-versed in educating, informing, or simply being around law enforcement officers, you could benefit from using this harm-reducing brochure — it’s called “Sticks, Pricks & Pokes: a Law That Protects LEO From Needlestick Injury” and is about T.C.A. § 40-7-124 specifically:

Again — and above all else — make sure to be kind, open-minded, well-researched, and nice in sharing information about T.C.A. § 40-7-124 with others. This holds true for talking about other laws, both those in Tennessee and elsewhere, that protect drug users, and otherwise advancing the causes of drug policy reform and the adoption of harm-reduction-related policies and practices.

Disclaimer

I am not an attorney. I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee or elsewhere within the United States. I have never studied law. I have never worked under the supervision of anyone who was, or currently is, sanctioned by any local, state, or federal government to practice law. The advice given herein is not meant to take the place of advice from an attorney, legal consultant, or anyone else who is licensed to practice law in Tennessee or elsewhere.

If you find yourself in a situation outlined above or otherwise related to T.C.A. § 40-7-124, T.C.A. § 39-17-415, or other laws, you should consult an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the state of Tennessee.