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Knoxville criminal defense lawyerEvery state has its own criminal justice system. The federal government also has its own criminal justice system. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant will face either state or federal prosecution, however, in some cases, they may be facing charges in both systems.

Federal vs. State Charges

Typically, the length of time it takes for a federal case to conclude takes longer than it does for state prosecutors to bring their cases to trial or other conclusions. It is not uncommon for federal prosecutors to request delays, resulting in the defendant being in limbo and unable to move forward with their life because of these serious criminal charges hanging over their head.

Another benefit that federal prosecutors have over state prosecutors is that they often have more staff and other resources to put into their cases compared to their state counterparts. Local prosecutors are often working within limited budgets and are often juggling multiple cases at a time.

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Knox County criminal defense lawyerThere are certain topics and activities that people are very passionate about. One of those topics is hunting. While hunting is a tradition in Tennessee and many other states, there are also many people who have become animal-rights activists who engage in activities to stop hunting. Unfortunately, one activity that some activists take is harassing hunters and trying to disrupt their hunts. According to state officials, these incidents are occurring on a more frequent basis, but those people who do engage in these activities should be aware that doing so can lead to criminal charges.

Hunter Harassment Law

Tennessee lawmakers passed the Hunter Protection Act in 1995, forbidding individuals to interfere with anyone who is engaged in the lawful taking of a game animal by another party or parties. This also includes the forbidden use of lights, drones, or any type of noisemakers in an attempt to disrupt someone who hunting in compliance with the law.

If someone does any of the following, they can be charged with a crime:

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Knoxville criminal defense attorneyIn 2018, the federal government passed the First Step Act into law. Under the law, eligible inmates would be able to obtain an early release if they were deemed a low or minimum risk of reoffending. The goal of the law was to reduce recidivism rates, address racial disparities (particularly with drug offenses), and ease the federal prison population. But four years later, the law seems to be stalled as thousands of prisoners who should have been released are still locked up.

The First Step Act

In addition to the early release provision, there were a number of other changes included in the First Step Act:

  • Allowed more flexibility for courts when facing mandatory minimum offenses
  • Allowed inmates to be placed in facilities as close to their homes (within 500 miles) to their homes when possible
  • Increased education and job training programs
  • Provided more options for home confinement and halfway house program options
  • Expanded rights for female prisoners

It has been the early release provision that has been the most difficult to implement. Under the law, the prison bureau uses a risk assessment tool to determine an inmate's risk of reoffending. They must have a low risk and must not have been convicted for sex offenses, human trafficking, terrorism, or other violent crimes. An inmate who meets that standard must also be eligible for home confinement, a halfway house, or another type of pre-release custody.

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Knoxville DUI defense lawyerWhen people talk about DUI charges and the potential consequences of a conviction, they are usually referencing state DUI charges. Every state, including Tennessee, has passed its own laws when it comes to the consequences of driving under the influence will be.

However, many people do not realize that if they are caught driving under the influence on federal property, they can be charged with a federal DUI and a conviction can have even direr consequences than state charges.

Federal Jurisdiction

There are a number of federally-owned locations where a driver can suddenly find themselves pulled over for driving under the influence. These include:

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Knoxville criminal defense lawyerTypically, twice a year, any new laws that the Tennessee legislators have passed go into effect – on January 1st and July 1st. This July is no different. One of the most significant new criminal justice system laws that went into effect was the Truth in Sentencing (HB 2656) law that passed that addresses violent crime convictions.

Full Sentence

Many convicted defendants who receive incarceration as part of their sentence are often able to earn reduced time off for good behavior while in prison. The average prisoner can earn up to 54 days off for each year they are in prison. However, that all changes for anyone convicted of a violent crime in Tennessee. The Truth in Sentencing law is just that – such a defendant will now have to serve 100 percent of their sentence with no opportunity for earning reduced time.

The law identifies the following violent crimes where the defendant must serve their entire sentence:

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Knoxville criminal defense lawyerAllegations of stalking can lead to serious legal consequences. Since many stalking allegation cases involve two parties that are known to each other or have had a close past relationship, understanding the definition of stalking can feel challenging. Sometimes, stalking can occur with no malice, including checking up on someone you are worried about or was a past romantic partner. Other times, stalking and harassment can be made as a direct threat to another person's wellbeing. Understanding how the Tennessee government defines and charges stalking can provide insight into the type of behaviors that are unacceptable in a court of law.

How Tennessee Defines Stalking 

Each state's statutes differ and can define crimes differently. Tennessee has strict stalking and harassment laws. According to the Tennessee statute on stalking, there are three categories of stalking allegations — stalking, aggravated stalking, and especially aggravated stalking. 

Stalking is intentional continued contact or harassment toward an unwilling individual. Stalking can lead the victim to feel threatened, intimidated, and harassed. A person can be charged for willingly engaging in stalking, which is a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee. However, if the alleged stalker i documented in court as a sexual offender, a stalking offense can be charged as a Class E felony. 

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Knoxville college student criminal defense lawyerThe most important thing to focus on during your college education is ensuring excellent grades and taking the time to learn about a future career. Unfortunately, college can also lead to trouble as students experiment, party, and explore newfound freedom. Spending countless hours in the library and studying with friends can quickly feel like a waste if a college student finds themselves with a criminal charge during college. Although criminal records are serious, there are various ways to navigate the future with the help of a skilled attorney. 

Common Charges for College Students

If you are a college student that has been charged with a criminal offense, you may feel isolated, embarrassed, or alone. However, it is not uncommon for young adults to find legal trouble during college.

Typical charges on college campuses include:

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Knoxville boating under the influence attorneyAs summer approaches, many Knox County residents are eager to make their vacation plans. Whether you are planning travels to new states or countries or are prepping for backyard barbecues with friends and family at home, there are many rules to remember to stay safe this summer — especially if you plan to go boating. A sunny boat day may be the perfect way to kick off summer for many Tennesseans, so reviewing the state laws for drinking and boating is essential. Just like driving a car, operating a boat comes with strict drinking laws to keep everyone safe for the summer.

Review of Drinking and Boating Laws

Drinking and boating laws are similar to drinking and driving laws. Although it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car, it is legal to drink on a boat. Like driving, any individual operating the boat must remain within the legal alcohol limit, a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of 0.08 percent in Tennessee. Any BAC over the 0.08 percent threshold is over the legal limit and can be grounds for a BUI offense. Boaters in Tennessee give their implied consent to have their BAC tested.

Most BUI offenses are charged as a Class A misdemeanor, but the repercussions can vary depending on various factors. Aggravating factors, such as repeat offenses or other illicit drugs located on the boat can worsen a BUI sentence. A first offense can lead to $2,500 in fines, 11 months of jail time, and up to one year of a suspended boating license. A second offense may lead to a boating license suspension for two years. Any subsequent violations will lead to $5,000 in fines and extended boating license suspension. BUIs can also be charged as a federal offense by the Coast Guard.

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Knoxville domestic violence defense lawyerDomestic violence is defined as a series of patterned, abusive behaviors against a partner or family member. These patterns can range from physical violence to emotional and mental abuse. In Tennessee, domestic violence and abuse include intentionally inflicting physical harm or pain or threatening to inflict harm on a spouse, partner, or family member. Understanding the differences between domestic violence and other violent charges can be confusing, and those accused of violent crimes may feel unsure about their next steps. Here are five frequently asked questions about handling a domestic violence accusation in Tennessee.

How Common is Domestic Violence in Tennessee?

According to a 2021 report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, there were 69,385 criminal offenses linked to or reported as domestic violence cases in the state in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, domestic violence cases rose by approximately 2.6%. The report states that most domestic violence cases in Tennessee were between boyfriends and girlfriends.

What is the Difference Between Battery and Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence and battery charges include instances of an individual inflicting intentional physical harm on another person. However, the term battery is a broad account of various types of assault, while domestic violence includes violence that occurs within someone’s immediate domestic circle.

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Knoxville Drug Defense AttorneyWhether you have been charged with possession of drugs for personal use or the intent to sell, a skilled criminal law attorney can determine what defense strategy may work for your situation. Although every case has a different set of circumstances, there are some common defenses that an attorney can use to defend their client against these charges, such as procedural errors or challenging evidence the prosecution wants to introduce to the court. The following are some of the most common defenses.

The Drugs Belong to Another Person

A common defense is that the drugs were not yours or that you had no idea they were in the car or house. Your attorney may be able to introduce evidence to cast reasonable doubt to the jury that the drugs were actually yours.

Crime Lab Analysis

Although a drug might look like meth, does not mean that it is meth. The prosecutor must be able to show that a seized substance is the drug it claims to be by sending it to a crime lab and having it tested. The analyst must then appear at the trial to testify and present their findings. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may be able to challenge those findings. One example would be evidence that there was an issue in the chain of custody, causing contamination.

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Knox County criminal defense attorneyThe opioid epidemic is killing approximately 70,000 people each year in the United States. It is estimated that each year, there are more than 1.5 million people who struggle with addiction. For many who are addicted, once they cannot get legitimate prescription medications, they often turn to heroin. Every year, more than 50,000 people use heroin for the first time and every year, more than 14,000 people die from heroin overdoses.

While many states have passed laws that are more sympathetic for addicts who commit crimes, focusing more on treatment over punishment, that does not seem to be the case in Tennessee as lawmakers consider a bill that would require all health care providers to notify police of anyone they treat for a drug overdose.

SB 1891

According to wording in the bill, anyone who is “called to tender aid to persons” who are suffering a drug overdose would be required to report that overdose to either the police chief or sheriff of the area treatment was provided. In addition, the health care provider must also report that the individual who suffered the overdose to the District Attorney General’s Office.

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Knoxville DUI defense lawyerOne of the most common pieces of evidence used by prosecutors in DUI cases is the result of the defendant’s breathalyzer test. However, a skilled Knox County defense attorney knows that it is not uncommon for breathalyzers to give false readings. While breathalyzer testing is more accurate than other subjective field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests can still be incorrect or inaccurate.

Breathalyzer Testing

When you are pulled over and the police officer has probable cause that you have been drinking, the officer can administer a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer test is a chemical test that assesses how much alcohol vapor is on the breath of the individual taking the test. This data generally correlates to an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level.

Tennessee is an implied consent state, meaning that by accepting a driver’s license that grants them the right to operate a vehicle, a driver automatically consents to be subjected to chemical testing when suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Individuals do have a right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but there are steep consequences for refusal.

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Knoxville criminal defense attorneysUnder Tennessee law, the majority of people charged with criminal offenses have the constitutional right to be released on bond while their case works its way through the criminal justice system. There are a few exceptions to this law, such as a case where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty or if the person was a fugitive.

The problem under the current system, however, is that there are many defendants who are unable to come up with the bond amount and end up sitting in jail until their case is resolved one way or another. Tennessee lawmakers are considering changes to the current bond system and have introduced three different bills.

Disparities in the Bond System

As of January 31, 2022, there were 24,264 people being held in Tennessee jails. According to the state’s Department of Corrections, 59 percent of those inmates were being held pre-trial. Critics say the bond system goes against the state’s constitution, which they say promises bail for everyone except those who have been charged with capital offenses.

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How Can I Get Out of a DUI in Knoxville?

Posted on in DUI/DWI/BUI

Knox County DUI defense attorneyDrunk driving is punishable by significant penalties. Even a first-time conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) results in a 48-hour mandatory jail sentence, heavy fines, and a one-year license suspension. Second and subsequent DUI convictions are punished even more harshly.

If you or a loved one were charged with drunk driving, contact a DUI defense lawyer for help. Your attorney can evaluate the circumstances of the alleged offense, help you gather evidence, and explore your legal options. Your attorney can also represent you in any legal proceedings resulting from the charges.

Defense Strategies for DUI Charges in Tennessee

Fortunately, being charged with a criminal offense like drunk driving does not mean that the defendant will automatically face penalties for the alleged offense. All criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty. In a DUI case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was driving while intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled lawyer may cast doubt on a DUI defendant’s guilt by questioning the validity of the evidence against the defendant.

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Knoxville marijuana possession lawyerOn January 25, 2022, the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” was introduced and assigned to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee for consideration. This could be a game changer for legal medical and recreational cannabis. With 37 states across the country currently having some form of medical cannabis program, Tennessee can soon become number 38. The bill would overhaul current laws making both medical and recreational marijuana legal. Local governments would not be able to override proposed laws, but they could vote to ban the sale within their jurisdictions by a two-thirds vote. Several benefits for consumers could be available in the near future, but familiarizing yourself with all the rules and regulations is key. Until that time, it is important to remember that possession of cannabis is still illegal.

What Happens if You Are Caught With Cannabis in Your Possession?

A conviction on a first offense for marijuana possession under Tennessee law incurs fines of $250.00 for a half-ounce of marijuana or less. Possession will have mandatory fines and up to one year in jail if convicted. Maximum fines can reach up to $2,500. Penalties for possession with intent to distribute starts at $5,000 and will increase with the amount of marijuana found on hand. This is considered a serious offense and is handled as a Class E misdemeanor. Cultivation of 10 plants or less can land someone in prison for up to six years. Larger quantities can increase the time up to 60 years.

Over the last few years, many states around the country have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, making the drug easier to obtain than perhaps ever before. However, you should definitely think twice about bringing marijuana purchased legally in other states into the state of Tennessee, as the penalties for possession can be serious.

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shutterstock_13686835.jpgIf you have ever seen red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, then you are already familiar with the fear and nervousness that being pulled over on the road can invoke. It is never fun to realize that you are being pulled over by the police. 

If you know that you had been drinking prior to getting in the car and driving on the road, then you probably have a sinking feeling in your stomach that you are being pulled over under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated

Even so, do you have to tell the police that there is alcohol in your system? And must you participate in a field sobriety test simply because you are asked to step out of your vehicle and consent to the testing? The answers to these questions are important to know in case you find yourself in a situation where you are asked to take the field sobriety test in Tennessee. 

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Knox County federal crimes attorneyNational parks across the United States offer expansive stretches of land full of wildlife and beauty galore. As inviting as national parks are, you are not welcome to enter a park without understanding and adhering to the rules and regulations of the park. 

For instance, in the Tennessee-based parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are certain laws that you must abide by in order to explore all that the park has to offer. If you fail to uphold the legal expectations while in the park, you can run the risk of being charged with a federal crime

But what is a federal crime? And what are the laws you must respect when enjoying your time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park? 

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Knox County criminal defense atTennessee can be quite a lovely state to visit around the holidays. Whether you are returning home to visit your family or vacationing with friends, your plans almost certainly do not include being arrested. However, situations have a way of getting out of control during what can be a stressful time of year, and visitors to our state do occasionally end up visiting our jails. If this has happened to you, it is of the utmost importance that you do not leave the state without having retained counsel to address the charges. Failure to handle your case in Tennessee can result in a warrant being issued that could get you arrested back home as well. 

How Does Being From Out of State Affect Bond?

Before you can even think about returning home, you will need to get yourself released from jail. This may be a little more difficult for an out-of-state visitor than for a Tennessee resident. The purpose of bond is to guarantee that a defendant will show up to answer for his charges. The idea is that you pay money to the court, and get most of it back when your case concludes. Courts may fear that if they release an out-of-state visitor without a substantial bond, they are likely to return to their home state and never come back. This can result in substantially higher bonds. 

Typically, people out on bond cannot leave the state. With the assistance of an attorney and perhaps a bondsman, you may be able to return home while your case is pending. Always speak with an attorney before leaving Tennessee.

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Knoxville Criminal Defense AttorneyWhen you own a business, there are a myriad of issues and responsibilities you need to keep abreast of in order to be successful. According to federal and state laws, that also includes making sure that no criminal activity is taking place at your business. Failure to do so could result in criminal charges being brought against you. This is what recently happened to one nightclub owner and two of his managers when they were all convicted by a federal jury of managing drug premises, conspiracy to manage drug premises, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. 

Details of the Convictions

According to federal prosecutors, the owner ran several popular nightclubs. Prosecutors alleged in their case that one reason for that popularity was that the defendant allowed drug dealers to sell cocaine in the bathrooms of the clubs, resulting in an increase in the clubs’ revenue of between $9 to $12 million. The jury was told that because the owner knew what was going on but continued to allow it because he was profiting by the increased business at his clubs, he was guilty of managing drug premises, along with the other charges. The jury agreed.

Part of the evidence federal prosecutors presented in the case included 17 controlled drug buys at several of the clubs of informants – who were all under the supervision of the FBI – purchasing bags of cocaine from drug dealers who were selling the drugs out of club bathrooms.

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Knox County criminal defense attorneyThere are two clauses in the U.S. Constitution that specifically prohibits governments from retroactively changing punishments for a crime that was previously committed. This clause also bars a government from changing the rules of evidence in a case or punishing conduct that was legal at the time it was committed. These laws are referred to as Ex Post Facto and according to a recent ruling by a federal judge, the state of Tennessee is in violation of this clause for how they have continued to enforce retroactive punishments against sex offenders, including some whose crimes took place decades before the Tennessee sex offender registry law went into effect.  

Federal Lawsuit

In her recent ruling, the judge ordered the removal of eight different men from the state’s sex offender registry list, as well as ordering the state to stop imposing restrictions on what these men can and cannot do, accusing the state of “flouting the Constitution’s guarantees.”

The state’s lawyers argued that the eight men should be kept on the registry in order to prevent future offenses and for the protection of the public. However, in her ruling, the judge pointed out that the state failed to provide any evidence that any of the men posed a threat to the public.

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