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Clarksville TN Criminal Defense Blog

Detailing Tennessee’s theft laws

The concept of theft might seem pretty simple: If you take something that does not belong to you, it is theft. However, many of the clients that have come to us here at Runyon and Runyon have been surprised to discover that the law actually expands the definition of theft to include a wide array of alleged offenses. How serious a penalty you may face if you are accused of theft in Clarksville depends on the value of items you are accused of stealing. Understanding exactly how the law views theft may help you in defending yourself from such an allegation.

The Tennessee Code of Criminal Offenses recognizes two distinct categories of theft: Theft of property and theft of services. Theft of property occurs if you knowingly obtain or exercise control over another’s property without his or her consent. Theft of services includes the following three scenarios:

  • Intentionally obtaining services by deception, coercion, forgery, false statement or pretenses, or any other fraudulent means in order to avoid paying for them.
  • Knowingly diverting services over which you have control to the benefit of a party that is not entitled to them.
  • Absconding from a hotel, motel, restaurant or other establishment were services are paid for upon delivery without either making payment or a bona fide offer to pay.

Understanding the restrictions of restraining orders

Those accused of committing domestic violence in Clarksville may often be blindsided by such allegations. Such shock may be even further compounded if they end up being served with restraining orders. Supposed domestic abuse suspects may think that, upon being served with such an orders, their best course of action is to contact their accusers to try and straighten things out. However, this could constitute a violation of a restraining order, which could cause one to be found in contempt and ultimately hurt his or her chances in putting up a successful argument in his or her defense. Thus, one who has been served with a restraining order could benefit from knowing how such orders are obtained as well as the restrictions that come with them.

According to the website for the Tennessee State Courts, a temporary restraining order can be issued without notifying the adverse party if an applicant can show that he or she could reasonably sustain injury, loss or damage at the hands of his or her alleged attacker if it is not granted. He or she must also show that either attempts have been made to notify the adverse party or such efforts should not be required. If and when a temporary order is granted, it remains in effect for 15 days, at the end of which a hearing is held.

Implications of a DUI conviction in Tennessee

Have you ever stopped for happy hour with co-workers on your way home from work? Have you ever had wine or beer at a family gathering or backyard barbecue and then driven home? These things are very common as part of people's social lives yet they could put you at risk for being investigated for drunk driving. If an officer does arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence in Tennessee, you should understand the implications of this for you.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security indicates that a DUI in Tennessee is generally a misdemeanor but can be a felony depending upon whether or not you have had any previous offenses or if another person is injured. If you have never been convicted of drunk driving before and nobody was hurt in an accident related to your arrest, you may still experience significant penalties if you are convicted of a DUI.

Do you qualify for a restricted license?

You may have not thought about it much before, but being able to do something as simple as drive around Clarksville actually gives you a lot of freedom. Often, an appreciation for that freedom only comes after it has been taken away. If you have lost your driving privileges due to being convicted for driving under the influence, then you likely have that appreciation right now. A first-time DUI offense in Tennessee typically results in your license being suspended for one year. Is there a way, however, to get your privileges back on a limited basis?

The state does indeed allow DUI offenders to apply for a restricted license. Having such a license allows you to drive to places such as:

  • Work
  • Church
  • School
  • Court-ordered drug and alcohol dependency treatment programs
  • Meetings with your probation officer
  • Ignition interlock monitoring appointments

Defining prohibited weapons in Tennessee

Like all residents of Clarksville, you have a constitutional right to bear arms to defend yourself. This may be why so many come to us here at Runyon and Runyon confused after having been arrested on weapons possession charges. The law does indeed allow you to own weapons, and to carry them with in certain situations. However, it should also be understood that the possession of certain types of weapons may constitute a criminal offense.

The Annotated Code of Tennessee (as shared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), lists standard arms such as handguns, rifles, shotguns and machine guns among its list of defined weapons. Also included in this list are explosive weapons, which can include:

  •          Bombs
  •          Grenades
  •          Rockets
  •          Mines
  •          Projectiles
  •          Containers holding flammable liquids or chemically reactive substances

Defining Tennessee’s drug schedules

One of the first questions that those who come to see us here at Runyon and Runyon following a drug arrest in Clarksville is what sort of penalties could they be facing if convicted. Unfortunately, there is not a simple “one size fits all” answer to that question. If you are arrested for drug possession, the charges and penalties that you may face depend largely on the type of substance you were allegedly found with.

Tennessee divides the many different forms of drugs out there into schedules. Classifications are assigned by the potential for addiction as well as whether or not a substance has applications in the medical field. These schedules (as shared by Discovery Place) are as follows:

  • Schedule I: Drugs with the highest risk or addiction and no approved medical purpose. Examples include heroin and hallucinogenics. 
  • Schedule II: Drugs with a relatively high risk of abuse and addiction, yet have been approved for certain medical uses. Examples include narcotics, cocaine and methadone, as well as amphetamines and methamphetamines.
  • Schedule III: Drugs with a moderate risk of abuse: Examples include ketamine and depressants, along with anabolic steroids and synthetic testosterone.
  • Schedule IV: Drugs with numerous medical applications that also carry with them a slight risk of addiction. Examples include prescription benzodiazepines (sedatives).
  • Schedule V: Drugs with a very low risk of dependency.

Understanding the difference between lost and mislaid property

Say that someone in Clarksville comes across an item that appears to have been lost, such as a cell phone, a laptop computer or a jacket. Is he or she entitled to keep whatever it is that was found? Or better yet, can the owner of that item later find that person and accuse him or her theft? The answer to these questions comes from understanding the different legal classifications of lost property.

The Legal Information Institute states that found property can be classified as either lost or mislaid. Lost property is that which was unintentionally lost by an owner. In reference to the items mentioned above, if such things were found on a sidewalk or in a park, then one might assume that the owner did not know that they might have been left there. Mislaid property, on the other hand, is that which was meant for use, but then forgotten by the owner. Again, the items referenced above might be considered mislaid if one found them on a seat at a restaurant, or a desk in an office.

Memphis husband and wife both arrested in domestic violence case

There is an old saying that goes “it takes two to tango.” Many in Clarksville may often cite it in cases of assault where one is accused of attacking another. While it may be viewed as justification for the actions of some, few would likely subscribe to that line of thinking in a case involving domestic violence. The reason behind this is the assumption held by many that a man should never use violence against a woman. Yet often, impartial parties may recognize cases where, even though an incident may have occurred between a couple, blatant aggression by one or the other may not have been present.

That is the claim being made by a Memphis sheriff’s deputy after he was arrested for being involved in an allegedly violent encounter with his wife. The man, however, claims he had no intention of harming her. The scratches and bruises investigating officers found her body were the result, he claims, of him attempting to prevent her from harming herself by driving drunk. He says that he inadvertently pushed her in an attempt to get her car keys.

Can you cite self-defense after having used a gun?

The term “self-defense” is seemingly brought up so often in criminal cases that you and others in Clarksville may give no credence to it all. Yet are there situations where the use of force (including using a gun) is indeed legally justified? The problem with citing self-defense as a defense to prosecution is that many may view your definition of being in danger as subjective. Others may try and portray you as being “trigger happy” by the mere fact that you own a gun. It is a good thing, then, that Tennessee state law clearly defines the scenarios where self-defense is justified.

Tennessee’s laws on self-defense state that you have no duty to retreat from a situation before using (or threatening to use) force to protect yourself from force being used against you. In justifying the use of such force, it must be proven that:

  •          You had a reasonable belief that you were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
  •          The threat causing your belief of such a danger was real (or believed to be real at the time)
  •          Your fear of danger was founded on reasonable grounds

Reviewing Tennessee’s implied consent law

Like most in Clarksville, your introduction to the state’s DUI laws likely only comes after you have been arrested and charged with such a crime. That is why many come to us here at Runyon and Runyon surprised after having automatically faced criminal penalties for refusing to submit to field sobriety tests. You may believe that it is well within your rights to refuse such tests, or that you at least may be able to wait to do them after having spoken to a lawyer. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Most states adhere to the idea of an "implied consent" law. Tennessee is no exception. In Section 55-10-406 of the state's Annotated Code, it states that by driving a vehicle, you are deemed as having automatically given consent to submit to either blood, breath or urine testing in order to determine your sobriety. However, one important aspect of Tennessee's implied consent law is that law enforcement officers must have probable cause in order to invoke it.

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