Nashville Criminal Defense Blog

Cyntoia Brown to serve 51 years before eligible for parole

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The court had previously ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to juvenile defendants.

"Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features -- among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences," explained Justice Elena Kagan for the majority. "It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him -- and from which he cannot usually extricate himself - no matter how brutal or dysfunctional."

Does the Constitution's 'excessive fines' clause apply to states?

In 2015, Tyson Timbs pled guilty to heroin charges and sentenced to five years' detention and probation. However, since his 2012 Land Rover was allegedly used to transport the drugs, the state of Indiana seized it as property that had been involved in crime. The vehicle was worth approximately $42,000 -- four times the maximum fine the state could impose for the crime he committed. The trial judge and an appeals court ruled that the seizure violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "excessive fines."

The Indiana Supreme Court had a different interpretation. Among several conclusions, it ruled that Indiana could not be held to account for violating the excessive fines clause because that clause only applies to the federal government. If that is true, states could impose whatever fines they want, no matter how excessive, without violating the Eighth Amendment.

Can you get a DUI in Tennessee without actually driving?

In Tennessee as in many states, people can be convicted of DUI not because they were actually driving, but because they were in physical control of a motor vehicle. This can potentially lead to some troubling cases.

For example, suppose an intoxicated person is found asleep in their car. They may very well have been trying to avoid driving drunk, but the fact that they were in the car could be taken as being in physical control. Wouldn't it be terrible to get a DUI when you had been trying to sleep it off?

Man who got a 17-year sentence for a minor drug charge freed

Calvin Bryant was incarcerated in 2008 for selling ecstasy out of his apartment. The Nashville man received a 17-year sentence, which is sentence typically given to those convicted of second-degree murder or rape.

It was Bryant's first criminal charge. However, since Bryant lived within 1,000 feet of a school, that bumped up the potential punishment for his crime.

What could tourists face over fights in Nashville?

Tourists coming to Nashville to enjoy its music scene, restaurants, attractions, nightlife and other offerings hope for a fun trip without troubles. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as smoothly as a visitor would hope. Some unexpected problems are just minor inconveniences. Others could have the potential to have major repercussions that last long after the trip.

One thing that falls into the latter category is getting into a physical altercation during a visit to Nashville. Being accused of being involved in a bar brawl or other fight could lead to tourists facing assault charges.

Judge: Tennessee can't revoke driver licenses for unpaid tickets

If you can't afford to pay your Tennessee traffic ticket, the state may have threatened to take away your driver's license -- or it may already have done so. If so, you probably thought that license revocation was a strikingly counterproductive way of getting people to pay debts. After all, most people in Tennessee need to drive to and from work. No license means no work, making it even more difficult to pay off that speeding ticket.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that the state law revoking driver's licenses for unpaid traffic tickets may be unconstitutional and has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from revoking any more licensees until the issue is finally decided. Moreover, he opened the door for perhaps 291,000 people with revoked licenses to get them back.

His conviction was based on junk science. Will he be released?

In 1992, 24-year-old Lorie Lee Lance was killed in a house fire in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Claude Francis Garrett, Lance's boyfriend, was accused of setting the fire. Although he swore he was innocent, an arson investigator claimed that a set of large, irregular burns in the living room represented a "pour pattern" indicating the use of a liquid accelerant. A large container of kerosene was found in the home, which Garrett claims was used in a kerosene heater.

The arson investigator's testimony helped get Garrett convicted not once, but twice. Garrett was originally convicted in 1993 and was retried in 2003. At the second trial, evidence was introduced that the so-called "pour pattern" evidence was junk science. In fact, most of the arson techniques used before the mid-1990s have been debunked. The arson investigator stood by his original findings, however, and the jury believed him.

Blood-spatter expert in murder case admits his analysis was wrong

There have been developments in the case of Joe B., a former high school principal who was convicted of his wife's 1985 murder based largely upon bloodstain-pattern evidence that has now been discredited. Now 78 and in frail health, Joe is hoping for a new trial.

Joe's conviction was based largely upon a single detective's opinion about a blood-speckled flashlight found in the trunk of his car. At the time, blood could only be tested for type, not DNA evidence. (The type was O, matching Joe's wife but also nearly half the U.S. population.) The detective claimed the speckles reflected a "back-spatter" pattern, indicating that the killer held it in his hand during the shooting.

Court of Criminal Appeals rules roadblock unlawful, overturns DUI

There are certain rules law enforcement must follow when setting up sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, but the Tennessee highway patrol failed to follow them in a 2012 roadblock in Harris County. Therefore, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals found the roadblock unconstitutional and vacated the DUI conviction of a Chattanooga man who was caught up in it.

The Chattanooga man was convicted in 2016 after filing motions to dismiss in 2013 and 2014. His was one of 285 cars stopped at the roadblock in 2012, but he was the only one arrested for DUI. The main question wasn't whether he was unfairly singled out, however. It was whether the highway patrol followed the law when setting up a surprise DUI roadblock at the exit to a tunnel.

How do Tennessee DUI laws differ from other states?

Nashville, Tennessee is a popular tourist destination. Many people who visit choose to go out to the bar but driving after the fact can prove consequential.

Each state varies in driving under the influence (DUI) penalties, so it is important to know the differences if you are charged with a DUI while visiting Tennessee.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
424 Church Street
Fifth Third Center, Suite 2260
Nashville, TN 37219

Toll Free: 800-785-9546
Phone: 615-200-9559
Fax: 615-635-0018
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