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Illegal Possession or Sale of Prescription Medications

If you have been accused of a drug offense involving prescription medication, it is possible that criminal charges may not be the only challenges you have to face. Approximately 16 million people in the U.S. abuse prescription medications, therefore we understand that drug crimes are often complicated legal matters and may involve a struggle with addiction. Our skilled and compassionate Nashville criminal defense attorneys will not only fight on your behalf and protect your legal rights, but we will also work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome for your future. Our successful efforts in prior cases have resulted in reduced charges and even outright dismissals. To learn more about our services during a free consultation, please contact us online or call (615) 422-6790.


Hydrocodone is an opioid used to treat severe pain and coughing. It is a highly addictive Schedule II narcotic that, if misused or used for a long duration, carries numerous health risks that may require professional medical treatment to overcome. Hydrocodone is known under such brand names as Vicodin, Symtan, or Anexsia.


Oxycodone is the active ingredient in OxyContin, which is an oral medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. OxyContin is like other oxycodone-based medications like Percocet, Percodan, Endocet, Tylox, Roxicet, Endodan, and Roxiprin. These prescription medications are Schedule II controlled substances in the state of Tennessee.


Adderall is an amphetamine stimulant prescribed to treat ADHD. The medication can be addictive and cause serious health problems if not used as prescribed. Adderall abuse is most commonly seen in students, athletes, and people with high stress jobs. Vyvanse is another common drug used to treat ADHD, but has a different chemical composition than Adderall. Both Adderall and Vyvanse are Schedule II narcotics.


The generic form of Xanax is Alprazolam and is also sold under the trade names Xanor and Niravam. Xanax is a short-acting drug of the benzodiazepine class used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and depression. The drug possesses sedative, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties and is a Schedule IV controlled substance in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, 1 in 4 teenagers have reported abusing or misusing prescription medication. The prescription medications listed above are the most common prescription drugs abused by teenagers. If your child has been charged with a drug crime relating to prescription medication, there could be a serious underlying issue with addiction that must also be addressed.

Simple Possession or Casual Exchange of Prescription Medication

Possession or casual exchange of prescription medication without a valid prescription or physician’s order is a misdemeanor drug offense in Tennessee. As a Class A misdemeanor, the penalties may include up to one year in jail and as much as $2,500 in fines for a first offense.

Possession can be actual or constructive:

  • Actual possession requires the person to be aware of the presence of the drug and have direct or indirect physical control over it.
  • Constructive possession is satisfied when the person does not have physical control, but has the power and intention at any time to exercise dominion and control over the drug, either directly or through another person. Essentially, constructive possession is the ability to exercise actual possession. For example, a jury could infer that a homeowner was in constructive possession of OxyContin if it was found on the defendant's coffee table.

Regarding casual exchange, courts allow an inference for possession without intent to sell, distribute or manufacture when there is only a relatively small amount of the controlled substance in the defendant's possession. For instance, if a person has transferred possession of one hydrocodone pill to another person without also transferring money, the offense may count as a misdemeanor casual exchange rather than a more serious felony charge for selling prescription medication.

It is important to understand that even a misdemeanor can have long-lasting repercussions, such as a permanent criminal record, which can result in ineligibility for loans, a loss of scholarship, or rejection by potential employers. Even if you are facing first-time prescription drug possession charges, the consequences may greatly impact your future.

Sale, Manufacture, or Delivery of Prescription Medications

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 39-17-417, it is a felony offense for a person to sell, deliver, manufacture or possess with intent to sell, deliver, or manufacture prescription medications. A large amount of a controlled substance, such as hydrocodone, is often considered proof that the drug is not simply intended for personal use, but is meant for sale, manufacture, or delivery.

Hydrocodone, OxyContin, and Adderall are Schedule II narcotics, therefore, the penalties are different than those for Xanax, a Schedule IV drug. Depending on the amount of hydrocodone or OxyContin involved, those penalties may be enhanced:

  • Class C Felony: Possession of less than .5 grams of hydrocodone or OxyContin, resulting in a possible prison sentence of three to 15 years, and a maximum fine of $100,000;
  • Class B Felony: Possession of greater than 200 grams of hydrocodone or OxyContin, resulting in a possible prison sentence of eight to 30 years and a $200,000 maximum fine;
  • Class A Felony: Possession of greater than 2,000 grams of hydrocodone or OxyContin, resulting in a possible prison sentence of 15 to 60 years and fines of up to $500,000.

Xanax, on the other hand, is listed as a Schedule IV drug and a conviction under subsection 417 is classified as a Class D felony, which carries a potential jail sentence between two and 12 years and a fine of no more than $50,000.

The difference between casual exchange and sale of a controlled substance is the presence of a plan or design. Meaning, the exchange or sale of a controlled substance without a prior plan or intent to sell the drug may not give rise to the stiffer penalties that result from the sale, manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance.

The difference in penalties between simple possession and possession with intent to sell is substantial and it is critical to retain a Nashville defense attorney who has ample experience defending drug charges and who will work to ensure that you are not wrongfully charged.