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Nashville Criminal Defense Law Blog

Judge: Tennessee can't take away driver's licenses for court debt

A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee's practice of revoking driver's licenses merely because defendants can't afford to pay court fines and fees. Since the law doesn't provide an exception for the indigent, it violates people's right to due process and equal protection under the law.

The case does not apply to license suspensions or revocations for cause, such as when defendants are convicted of DUI. It also doesn't affect jurisdictions outside Tennessee, even though about 40 states have similar laws. However, observers say the case could be a harbinger for reforms across the nation.

Beware: Increased 4th of July DUI enforcement has begun

Between June 25 and July 5, many Tennessee law enforcement agencies will be engaging in increased DUI enforcement surrounding Independence Day. The Tennessee Highway Safety Office provides funding for county sheriff's departments in concert with statewide and national messaging meant to reduce serious and fatal accidents involving drunk drivers.

You may notice more sobriety checkpoints along with high-visibility saturation enforcement until July 5.

Arrested at Bonnaroo or another Tennessee festival? Get help now

The 17th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester is only one of many fantastic music and cultural festivals in Tennessee that attract thousands of revelers from across the nation. While the festival is well worth the trip, some people end up having a negative experience. They end up arrested or cited for DUI, drug possession, assault or another crime.

This year, law enforcement groups patrolling the festival report arresting and cited at least 226 people -- a drop from last year's total. However, while citations were down significantly, arrests were up, according to the Coffee County Sheriff's Department. This year there were 45 arrests at Bonnaroo, up from 42 last year. Most of them involved drugs and alcohol.

Supreme Court affirms warrants required for searches around homes

The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed that police need to obtain a warrant to search the premises around someone's home, even if they think they have spotted stolen property there. They aren't allowed to take a quick peek and initiate a search based on what they see.

The case involved a stolen black and orange motorcycle. Its rider had managed to evade police in Virginia on two occasions. They tracked down the person they thought was the rider, so they went to his residence to take a look. As they had expected, a motorcycle was spotted under a tarp on the property. Was it black and orange? An officer entered the premises and moved the tarp to confirm that it was.

Understanding appellate court: your second chance at freedom

Being arrested on a criminal charge is a frightening experience. If you've been arrested and then convicted it is considerably worse. When your time in court is said and done, and the judge has rendered a guilty verdict, it may be time for you to make an appeal.

When you've been found guilty of a criminal charge, an appeal is your second chance at freedom. Freedom from possible jail time, heavy fines, losing your license and many other penalties. It is important to understand that you are not guaranteed an appeal, and the appeal is not a completely new trial; it could be the second chance you need though.

Driving a rental car? Police need probable cause to search you

When you're driving in your own car, the police can't just pull you over for no reason -- they need reasonable suspicion that you've committed an offense. Once they've stopped you, they need probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed before they can perform a full search of your vehicle. This is because the Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from performing unreasonable searches and seizures.

The same principle applies if you're driving a rental car, although that wasn't obvious to a Pennsylvania state trooper who pulled a man over in 2014. In that case, the driver wasn't listed on the rental agreement, so the trooper decided he had waived his Fourth Amendment rights.

If your bail is completely unaffordable, is it 'excessive'?

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits "excessive bail." Over time, courts have made numerous rulings on what constitutes "excessive," but our country still finds itself in the midst of a bail crisis.

By some estimates, as many as 70 percent of that jail population in the United States are behind bars because they can't afford their bail. We hold more people for this reason than most countries' entire incarcerate rate. Pretrial detention accounts for nearly all of the growth in our jail population. The average bail for a felony charge is about $10,000, but about 44 percent of Americans say they would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency.

Tourist arrested for public indecency at a Nashville event?

Nashville has more than 180 music venues in addition to the venerable Grand Ole Opry House and Ryman Auditorium. The Music City hosts concerts, festivals and events year-round that attract both Tennessee residents and visitors. Unfortunately, visitors to Tennessee sometimes make costly, inconvenient mistakes such as using drugs, driving drunk or breaking the law in other ways.

One common but somewhat embarrassing reason tourists get arrested in Nashville and around Tennessee is public indecency. This is particularly common at big outdoor festivals such as Bonnaroo, where long lines for bathrooms can frustrate some otherwise law-abiding people to use "alternative facilities." There are also instances where people engage in a more sexual form of indecency.

'Serial' podcast defendant Adnan Syed granted a new trial

What is ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal case? Thanks to the Sixth Amendment and associated court rulings, criminal defendants are entitled to the assistance of counsel -- and that counsel is to be effective. However, the standards for determining when counsel has been constitutionally ineffective are hard to meet.

First, the attorney must have failed to perform a legal duty toward the defendant. That could be, for example, the duty to perform a reasonable investigation of the case, to present favorable witnesses or to introduce any evidence pointing to the defendant's innocence. Second, however, counsel is only considered ineffective if that failure to perform the legal duty can be shown to have impacted the outcome of the trial.

3 reasons courts will suppress evidence

Not all evidence is admissible in a courtroom. Mistakes can be made throughout police investigations, and illegally obtained evidence can be tossed.

In a suppression hearing, a judge will decide if evidence should be suppressed. What kind of evidence is inadmissible and why? Below, we provide an overview of the reasons evidence can be suppressed in a trial.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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