Most people agree that children should not use or get exposed to drugs. It seems appropriate, then, that Tennessee has enacted laws creating drug-free zones around areas where children are present, including schools, parks, and day care centers. Committing any drug crime in these zones carries higher penalties.
While the law has good intentions, it has not worked in some ways and has disproportionately affected certain demographic groups in Tennessee. If you are facing drug charges involving a drug-free zone, you need to be aware of the challenges you may face.
One issue is the law has resulted in too much coverage, especially in urban areas where schools, parks, child care centers, and other protected places are very close together. This increases the likelihood that drug activities will happen in drug-free zones.
The law also includes driving through a zone with drugs. This can be difficult to avoid in a city like Nashville, in which 27 percent of the land falls in drug-free zones reports The Atlantic. Factors such as time of day and the actual presence of children do not make a difference.
While it may make sense to some people that offenders deserve harsher punishments, these consequences are negatively affecting minorities at higher rates. This happens because minorities are more likely to live in areas with high zoning coverage. According to the advocacy organization FAMM, Tennessee looked into reforming the law last year, but it did not pass.
Some police officers purposely set up undercover operations in drug-free zones so caught offenders qualify for greater penalties. However, this only invites drug activity into these protected areas, which defeats the whole purpose of the law.
People who have been arrested for illegal activities in a drug-free zone should keep this fact in mind: Every criminal charge has defenses. They should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.