What you need to know about criminal offenses in Tennessee
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Tennessee, you are most likely feeling overwhelmed and confused. It is only natural. Your freedom and future are at stake. Tennessee’s criminal justice system is extremely complex and confusing. It can be nearly impossible to navigate if you do not have a basic understanding of Tennessee’s criminal laws and procedures. A basic understanding of the system is essential if you want to achieve a desirable result. You must fully understand all the rights that the law grants to those accused of a criminal offense. An understanding of the criminal classification system is essential so that you can understand the charges and penalties that you are facing.
Types of criminal offenses
- Crimes against property: crimes that are committed by damaging or intruding on the property of another. Burglary and vandalism are examples of this type of offense.
- Theft and fraud crimes: this type of offense involves illegally taking a victim’s property. Shoplifting, forgery, prescription fraud, and credit card fraud are common examples of this type of offense.
- Crimes against a person: crimes committed using force or harm against a victim. Murder, rape, domestic violence, and simple assault are examples of this type of offense.
- Drug related crimes: simple possession, drug distribution, and the selling of drugs are the most common examples of this type of offense.
- Crimes against public order: Public intoxication and disorderly conduct are examples of this type of offense.
Depending upon the severity, Tennessee law classifies criminal offense as either a misdemeanor or felony. For example, the value of property stolen in a shoplifting case will determine the severity of the offense. If the value is less than $500.00, the accused will be charged as a misdemeanor offender. However if the value is $500.00 or greater, felony charges will be filed. Likewise, drug offenses are often graded depending upon the amount (weight) of drugs involved. Simple possession of marijuana under ½ ounces is usually charged as a misdemeanor and possession above ½ ounce is usually charged as a felony.
Misdemeanor offenses are classified under Tennessee law as those that carry up to eleven months and 29 days in jail along with a maximum fine of $2,500.00. Usually, sanctions for misdemeanor offenses include fines, probation, community service, alcohol/drug treatment, and restitution. Common misdemeanor offenses include driving under the influence, simple possession, patronizing prostitution, public intoxication, domestic violence, and assaults. It is important to remember that a misdemeanor criminal offense offender has the right to a jury trial and attorney. Misdemeanor offenses should not be taken lightly. A permanent conviction could carry dire penalties like loss of employment opportunities.
Felonies are the most serious classification of a criminal offense. The penalties often include significant jail time and hefty fines. Sanctions can be similar to those discussed above for misdemeanor offenders. Common felony offenses often involve drugs-selling or distribution. In addition, murder, rape, aggravated assault, arson, sexual crimes, and white collar crimes are also common felony offenses under Tennessee law. Defendants accused of a felony have an absolute right to a jury trial and legal representation. If the defendant is found to be indigent, the court will appoint an attorney to the accused. All felony charges should be taken extremely serious. A conviction could result in lengthy incarceration and a lasting social stigma that will haunt the convicted for the rest of their lives.
The legal process does not have to be intimidating and I work hard to make sure my clients get optimum results in their criminal cases. I also work hard to make sure my clients are put at ease and informed of all their rights and options. Please do not go to court alone and assume the truth will win out. It seldom does. Call today at 615-345-1988. I will be happy to discuss all of your options in dealing with your Nashville misdemeanor charges.
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-Lee Martin is a nationally recognized DUI and criminal defense attorney. He provides premier legal services by limiting his caseload exclusively to DUI and criminal matters. Lee knows how to build a solid defense strategy for your upcoming court date. Let Lee Martin be your choose as your Nashville area criminal defense lawyer. If you have pending charges, give him a call at 615-345-1988.
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