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Knoxville Criminal Defense Law Blog

Tennessee's Good Samaritan Law: Is Helping Thy Neighbor a Crime?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, an expert in the law was asked to distinguish which of three men acted the most "neighborly" to a stranger in desperate need. The expert correctly determined that the man who rendered aid to the person in need, rather than the two others who ignored him, was the neighbor. It is from this story that we derive the popular adage "Love your neighbor as yourself."

While for many these may be words to live by, imagine the case where a person attempts to render aid to another, but is then sued for the result of his or her assistance. Picture a doctor who happens upon a man bleeding to death on the side of the road. Should she stop to help? Common sense and morality would dictate, yes. However, the doctor is under no legal duty to render aid, and may even ignore the bleeding man, particularly if there exists the threat of litigation for her help.

Cheers, Beers, & Volunteers: Underage Consumption in Tennessee

It's football time in Tennessee, and that means numerous opportunities to gather with friends and family to share in the spirit of this athletic season. It also signifies that time of year when countless fans plan their season-long tailgating experience. Tailgates have become synonymous with football, and for many fans, the tradition has become just as important as the game itself.

Clean Slate: Tennessee's New Expungement Law

Crystal_Clear_app_tutorials.pngBy: Brad Henry

On May 21, 2012, Governor Haslam signed House Bill 2865 into law.  The new law will become effective on July 1, 2012.  HB2865 amends Tennessee's expungement law, T.C.A. 40-32-101, to allow a person to request the expungement of certain non-violent criminal convictions.  Previously, a person was only eligible for expungement if they had been arrested but not charged, a true bill was not returned by the grand jury, or the case was dismissed.  Now, subject to a few conditions, a person may petition a court to destroy the records of a conviction.

Pay to Play: SCRAM Units in Knox County DUI Cases

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By: Brad Henry

I recently attended a meeting on DUI where the use of SCRAM Units was discussed.  It has been the practice of the Knox County D.A.'s Office to offer reduced sentences for defendants who can afford to wear a SCRAM Unit for a certain period of time.  For many people this has saved them from the embarrassing consequences of a DUI conviction while ensuring that they are alcohol free for their probationary period.  The problem is what happens to all the people who cannot pay for the SCRAM Unit?

Minimum Mandatory: Control Through Charging Discretion

By: Brad Henry

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Minimum mandatory sentences are strewn throughout the federal criminal code. Unfortunately, these mandatory minimums take authortiy away from judges and give it to the prosecution.  By providing defined sentences for certain offenses, judges are handcuffed and cannot consider what sentence is appropriate for the individual.  The net result is hundreds or thousands of low-level, non-violent, drug addicted defendants are sent to prison for extraordinary amounts of time. As Sentencing Law and Policy Blog points out, Judge John Gleeson, District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, has a solution; prosecutors should use their charging discretion.

21 U.S.C. 851: Doubling Your Sentence Under Federal Law

By: Brad Henry

If you have been charged with a drug offense under 21 U.S.C. 841 and have a prior drug offense you may face a doubled minimum mandatory.  All the governme120px-Pyschoactive_Drugs.jpgnt has to do is file an Information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 851 alleging that you have a prior drug offense that carries a maximum penalty of over one year in jail.  Even if you did not serve a year in jail on the prior offense, the government can seek to double your minimum mandatory sentence.  Luckily, the government must follow strict procedure and prove certain elements of the prior offense beyond a reasonable doubt to the judge at sentencing.

Lawyer Up!: The importance of Your Right to Counsel

By Brad Henry:National_Constitution_Center-exterior.thumbnail.jpg

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Consitution provides that every person is entitled to the assistance of counsel in a criminal case.  The problem is that many people who have been charged with a crime and are being held in custody don't exercise their right to counsel.  They want out of jail so badly that they are willing to make a deal with the prosecution even if it results in a conviction.  These convictions can have serious consequences.  Don't make a decision that could affect the rest of your life without speaking to an attorney first.

Electronic Surveillance: Smartphones are Recording You

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By: Brad Henry

Recently, a security researcher posted a video showing hidden software on smartphones that records our activities called Carrier IQ.  There have been several stories in the news about electronic surveillance and how smartphones and computers can record what websites we visit, phone numbers we dial, text messages we send, and even our exact location.  As technology increases at a rapid pace our laws have not kept up.  Obviously, this leads to concern over our privacy to use electronics without fear of unreasonable searches.

Failing to Report - Knowledge can be criminal

Lips_Sealed.jpgFailing to Report - Knowledge can be criminal

By Joe Lodato

By failing to report the sexual abuse or assault on a child, of which he was aware, legendary Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, is poised to lose his job and may yet face more severe sanctions. This could have been worse in Tennessee. In Tennessee, this inaction would be a criminal offense and punishable under the law. " Any person required to report known or suspected child sexual abuse who knowingly and willfully fails to do so, or who knowingly and willfully prevents another person from doing so, commits a Class A misdemeanor." Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 37-1-615.

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