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Clarksville TN Criminal Defense Blog

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.

Dealing with a hostile shared custody situation

If a divorcing couple in Clarksville has children together, one of the harsh realities that both must deal with is the fact that they will be forced to continue to collaborate in raising their kids. Some may think that the animosity shared between a separated couple could make pursuing shared custody a bad idea. However, research information shared by the America Coalition for Fathers and Children shows that kids benefit from having shared residential custody even when their parents are not on good terms.

One complaint that many divorced parents often share is that their ex-spouses are intentionally hostile towards them, and not willing to not involve the kids in their disagreements. Such parents may feel this justifies bad behavior in their part, yet expert opinions shared by the publication Divorce Magazine offer advice on how to deal with a hostile shared custody situation. Some of the tips offered include:

  •          Separate individual problems from shared ones: Parents not wanting to fight with their exes should look to understand which of their exes’ problems are theirs alone, and then avoid talking with them about such issues.
  •          Be empathetic: As difficult as it may be, one should try to imagine the difficulties his or her ex may be facing, and thus attempt to accommodate him or her in terms of parental duties when possible.
  •          Accepting the inability to control the other: One should not preoccupy his or her time or thoughts with worrying about actions his or her ex engages in that he or she cannot control.

Restricting a parent's visitation privileges

The issue of visitation can often become contentious as couples in Clarksville try to work their way through divorce proceedings. Often, the circumstances surrounding the end of a marriage may engender a good amount of distrust between a couple. Some may cite that mistrust (or at least the cause of it) as a reason for restricting their soon-to-be ex-spouses' access to their children. Some may attempt to bar any access to the children whatsoever, while others will ask of any visitation that is granted be restricted.

Information shared by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that of the 6.5 million non-custodial parents paying child support in 2013, only 52.2 percent had visitation privileges. Indeed, Tennessee state law does allow the court to restrict access to one's children if any of the following elements have been demonstrated in his or her individual case:

  •          Neglect or nonperformance of parental responsibilities
  •          Impairments that limit one's performance as a parent (both biological and chemically induced)
  •          A lack of emotional connections between parent and child
  •          Any criminal convictions that may inhibit one's parenting abilities
  •          Tendencies for conflict that could hinder a child's psychological development

Decision to seal divorce case contradicts state’s legal precedent

It likely may not come as a shock to many in Clarksville that divorce cases between couples can often get ugly. The risk that those who choose to go through their proceedings in family court take is that the details of their cases then become a matter of public record. For some, that can include details about family disputes, financial misfortunes, cases of infidelity, and domestic violence accusations. While some may argue that such details do not need to be shared with the public, others may claim that a couple should understand that the decision to carry out its divorce in a public venue essentially invites outsiders in to see the details of their cases.

That does not appear to be the case, however, in the divorce of an Ohio state senator and his soon-to-be ex-wife (who also serves as a local country recorder). A judge recently approved the couple’s request that its case be sealed from public view. This seems to contradict a 2004 ruling from the state’s Supreme Court that says any records regarding such matters are subject to public record release laws. While the husband’s attorney insists that this motion was made in an attempt to protect the couple’s children from having to hear news of their public figure parents’ breakup broadcast on the news, the couple’s history suggests there may be details they simply do not want shared. Police records show that law enforcement officials had been called to the couple’s home in the past in response to a domestic violence incident (from which no charges ended up being filed).

Suspending an obligor’s license for child support arrears

One of the ironies that accompanies divorce is that separated couples in Clarksville must still continue their relationships to a certain extent if they have children. Any negative emotions that may linger between a couple may continue to manifest themselves through actions such as a failure to meet child support payment obligations. Information shared by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that over 22 percent of parents owed child support in 2014 had to request intervention in order to enforce their agreements. Given how much custodial parents may rely on such payments in order to support themselves and their kids, it is little wonder why the law allows them recourse in order to do so.

One of the more common ways to legally enforce a child support obligation is to have an obligor’s license revoked. While the license that most assume as being subject to suspension for unpaid support is one’s drivers’ license, Tennessee Code Section 36-5-701 actually allows that suspension to extend to any certification or permit allowing one to:

  •          Work in a certified profession or trade
  •          Hunt
  •          Fish

What is palimony?

As societal norms change in Clarksville, so too do many of the common definitions assigned to certain relationships and associations within the local community. Take cohabitation, for example. As recently as 10-15 years ago, living together without being married may have been considered a taboo. Yet U.S. Census data from 2012 showed that 7.8 million couples were cohabitating during that year. If you have chosen to cohabitate with a partner, you should know that while such a relationships may preserve you from dealing with some of the issues inherent with matrimony, you also may have little to no recourse when it comes to receiving support should your relationship end.

Enter the idea of palimony, or support paid following the separation of an unmarried couple. Typically, only those states that recognize common law marriages offer any sort of opportunity to collect palimony. Where Tennessee does not, your only option for collecting palimony payments may be to establish that expectation through a cohabitation agreement.

Earning visitation following a falling out

Many in Clarksville may agree with the saying that one of the benefits of having kids is grandkids. The grandparent-grandchild relationship can be incredibly strong, and one that could produce quite a bit of harm to both sides if ever severed. Many of the 65 million grandparents reported by the U.S. Census Bureau to be living in America would like agree with this assertion. This may be why so many dread the thought of being told by their adult children that they are no longer allowed to see their grandkids.

No family is immune from discord, and unfortunately many allow disagreements to drive a significant wedge in between them. For those who may have had a falling out with their adult children, there may not be any actual laws that allow for them to petition for grandparent visitation based on those circumstances alone. In cases involving family relationships, the courts often side with parents over grandparents when it comes to issues involving children.

Father’s popular persona at issue in child custody case

The perception of divorced parents by many in Clarksville may be that when it comes to fighting for the custody of their children, each sides’ primary motivation is to limit the others’ access to the kids as a way to further punish them for any negative emotions they feel towards each other. However, further examination of such cases may reveal that those involved in these disputes do indeed feel their children would be better off with them rather than being subject to the other parents’ flaws and idiosyncrasies.

Often, one side will try to involve those traits in a trial in an attempt to bolster their own claims. Such appears to be what is happening in an ongoing Texas custody case between a popular Internet personality and his ex-wife. The man, who is known for his loud and brash political and social commentary, has had custody of the children since 2015. His ex-wife has cited some of his on-air comments as indicating instability and potentially criminally behavior. In her attempt to regain either sole or full custody of the kids, she plans on playing some of his more controversial comments before a jury to support her case. For his part, the man and his attorneys have said that his on-air persona does not reflect who he is as a father, even going so far to say he is simply a performance artist.

Defining stalking in Tennessee

Leaving an abusive spouse takes an exceptional amount of courage on your part. Unfortunately, as many of those that we here at Runyon and Runyon have worked with can attest to, that likely does not signal the end of your ordeal. Fortunately, once you have separated from your abuser, you do have legal resources to help protect you, you children and your family members. This includes protection from stalking.  

The Annotated Code of Tennessee classifies “stalking” as any willful action (included unconsented contact) that causes you to feel threatened, intimidated, harassed or terrorized. Such an offense is normally classified as a misdemeanor. However, if any of the following conditions are met, it could be determined to be a felony:

  •          Your ex-spouse has made a credible threat of death or serious bodily injury to you, your children, and your parents or dependents.
  •          He or she is registered (or has been mandated to register) as a sex offender with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
  •          He or she displays a deadly weapon in the course of stalking you.
  •          He or she has already been convicted of stalking you or another person within the past seven years.

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