Landlord "Inadvertently" Sends Notice To Leave To Tenants

February 15, 2016


On January 27, 2016, WKRN reported that dozens of tenants at the Howe Garden Apartments in East Nashville received notices that they were to leave their apartments in the middle of the lease. This obviously left tenants, who still had months left on their leases, furious and confused. It wasn't until new outlets asked the property management company for more information that the apartment complex announced that the notices were just a mistake.

The underlying issue with this story is that the apartment complex in question recently was purchased by a new owner. Currently, Howe Garden is an affordable complex in a vastly growing Nashville. It is not uncommon to have complexes purchased by new owners, renovated and put back up for lease at a higher rate. But to do that, the current residents must have their leases run out or agree to leave.

Under Tennessee law, new owners inherit the lease agreement between the tenants and original landlord when they purchase property that is currently being rented. This means they must honor the lease agreement, including the duration of the lease. The new owner must also follow Tennessee's Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

In the event a new landlord fails to honor the lease, they could be held liable under breach of contract or violation of the Landlord-Tenant Act. Liability could include damages, punitive damages and even attorney's fees.

With affordable rent being harder and harder to find in Middle Tennessee, it is important for residents to know their lease agreement. When a new owner purchases rental property, they are usually looking to get a return on their property. And since they cannot start renovations until all the current tenants are out, it is not uncommon to see them strictly enforce the lease agreement. This means tenants can't be late with rent or violate any of the covenants listed within the lease.

For tenants who find themselves in a similar situation, it is important that they document everything, from payments made to maintenance requests. Tenants should always keep landlords informed of any issue with the premises keep all communication in writing if possible.

For more information regarding Landlord/Tenant Disputes visit

Michael Wrenn is an Associate Attorney at Freeman & Fuson.

So You've Been Placed on the Abuse Registry

October 6, 2015
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Most of our clients who are dealing with allegations from the Department of Health are fighting to keep their name off the abuse registry. More recently we have been contacted by individuals who have found out that their name has been placed on an abuse registry without their knowledge. This can cause a tremendous amount of problems, including preventing someone from being employed.

So, you are one of the people who have recently found out you were placed on an abuse registry years ago. What can you do now? Depending on how long ago you were placed on the registry, you do have options to get your name removed. The first is petitioning the Board to remove your name. This petition is very important and should be completed knowing what specific characteristic the Board is looking for in determining whether or not to remove a name from the abuse registry. Taking the time to understand how such a petition should be drafted, who should supply letters of reference and knowing who your audience is can mean the difference in your petition being granted or denied.

In the event that you have petitioned the Board for removal and have found out that your Petition has been denied, you do have an option. Tennessee law allows for a person to appeal an administrative decision to the Chancery Court for judicial review. Such a review is conducted by the court without a jury and is confined to the record of the agency's decision alone. This review is limited to certain questions of law and, most times, focuses on the procedures and very little on the facts surrounding your case.

Any appeal of an administrative decision must be filed within 60 days of the Board's final decision, so time is of the upmost importance. If you have found yourself on the abuse registry, contact Freeman & Fuson to discuss how we can help you.

Michael Wrenn is an Associate Attorney with Freeman & Fuson.

4-5-320(c) Notifications: Fighting for your License

October 6, 2015

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Whether you are a nurse, doctor or pharmacist, your professional license is your livelihood. Theses licenses are governed by specific Boards as part of the Tennessee Department of Health and have the power to suspend and even revoke your license.

If you ever receive a 4-5-320(c) notice, then you could be facing discipline from the Department of Health that could have enormous ramifications on your ability to earn a living. A 4-5-320(c) letter is a notification that you have been charged with a violation of rules and regulations that govern your profession. Prior to receiving that notice, a Board Consultant and attorney from the Tennessee Department of Health have already investigated allegation and have decided to proceed with formal charges against you.

Included with this notice is usually a consent order, which is document produced by the Tennessee Department of Health attorney requesting that you agree to the facts surrounding the charge and consent to recommended discipline. At that time you have only a few options, either sign and consent to the facts and discipline; negotiate; or refuse to sign and move forward with a hearing on the allegations.

A professional's choice will depend on the specific facts surrounding the allegations raised against them, but contacting an attorney should be their first step. An attorney can review the allegations raised and determine what, if any, defenses can be raised. Remember, this is how you earn a living, and any discipline could have a significant impact should future allegations arise.

In the event that a formal proceeding is required, the professional has the right to conduct discovery, including interrogatories and depositions, and subpoena witnesses to the hearing. This hearing is conducted much like any other trial, except the jury is made up of members of the Board. This is why it is so important that you have an advocate there to help defend your license.

If you or someone you know has received a 4-5-320(c) notification, contact our firm today to discuss your case. The Department of Health has already spent countless hours investigating you case, and having an attorney can put you on equal footing.

Michael Wrenn is an associate attorney with Freeman & Fuson and can be reached at 615-298-7272.


October 6, 2015

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Freeman & Fuson represents both landlords and tenants who find themselves in a dispute with the other. Whether you are facing an eviction or have a tenant who has breached the terms of the lease, we can help you with those issues or any number of the other problems that may arise. Tennessee has a set of laws that covers landlords and their tenants and the duties owed by both.

The duties of either the landlord or the tenant varies from county to county in Tennessee. That is because the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Acts ("URLTA") applies to counties with a population of 68,000 or more. (Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Davidson, Greene, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Sumner, Washington, Williamson and Wilson).

Landlords have a special interest in preserving the premises they own and making sure that their tenants comply with the both the lease and the URLTA. Rental properties in Middle Tennessee are in high demand and having a tenant fail to pay rent or cause damage to the premises can result in lost revenue. Protecting your property and revenue are of the utmost importance, and Freeman & Fuson can help. From helping construct a specific lease agreement for your property, resolving disputes through negotiations, to pursuing an eviction and recovering damages and lost rent, our firm handles your case quickly and efficiently.

Freeman & Fuson also assists tenants who find themselves in disputes with their landlords. Whether facing eviction or a landlord who refuses to make repairs, we can help you with those issues or any number of other problems that come up. Under the URLTA, a landlord has a number of duties that they must comply with which includes disclosures that must be made, how they handle a security deposit, making repairs and specific requirements when a landlord attempts to terminate a lease. Freeman & Fuson can help negotiate a resolution to your dispute and, if needed, prepare your case for hearing.

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, Freeman & Fuson can help you navigate the complex laws that govern residential leases. Contact our office at 615-298-7272 today.

As Homeownership Decreases Rental Properties Become More Important

October 6, 2015


A recent article by CNBC stated that home ownership across the country is down to its lowest rate since 1967. This means that more people, especially young adults, are renting instead of buying. Middle Tennessee fits perfectly into this mold as well. With residential real estate prices soaring, and more people flocking to the next "it" city, rental property supply is having trouble meeting the demand. As the Wall Street Journal noted, rental rates in Nashville are rising because of the growth in population related to attractive job opportunities.

So what does all of this mean for landlords and tenants? First, landlords have a vested interest in protecting their rental property because it is a growing source of income. This means they need to (1) research potential tenants, (2) invest in a solid written lease agreement and, if needed, (3) move quickly in resolving disputes that may arise with tenants. Failing to do any of these three could result in lost rent, lost value and ultimately lost income.

Background checks are easy and inexpensive and can provide a landlord with extremely important information. Our firm runs them on almost every case we take because it can provide valuable information that we may otherwise not have found out. This can include past judgments and lawsuits, evictions and criminal history. When dealing with multiple potential renters for a property, more information is vital.

A written lease is the most important thing that exists between a tenant and a landlord. Although most counties in Middle Tennessee are governed by the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, the clauses of a lease will govern most landlord tenant disputes. This document should cover all areas of potential dispute and set out the rights and responsibilities of each party. Having a thorough and well thought out lease can resolve a majority issues quickly and will be imperative if a need arises to go to court.

Lastly, for landlords, being able to resolve disputes quickly is especially important because it can mean the difference not losing monthly rent and losing several months. Tennessee law requires different types of notice for different types of rental violations. Many of these can be waived with a solid lease agreement, which in turn can result filing an eviction action weeks quicker than the alternative. Besides filing an action, having a solid legal team that you can communicate with is also important. Through my experience, a number of these cases can be settled through an open dialogue. This means you and your attorney need to discuss each case, because each case will have its own unique circumstances. Finally, if the case does have to go to trial, you will want an advocate who can present the case before a judge to get back property and any damages that may have been incurred.

With Nashville's rental rates and demand growing, where does that leave current tenants? The landlord/tenant laws in Tennessee tend to favor landlords, but that does not mean tenants are without rights. With a high demand and low supply of rental properties, some tenants may become victim to landlords who are looking to increase rent at the tenant's expense. In Tennessee, a landlord has the right to increase rent or terminate a lease, but there are certain steps that must be followed to do so legally.

The most important thing a tenant can do is know their lease agreement. As discussed above, a good lease agreement will identify all of the responsibilities regarding their rented home and can settle a majority of disputes. If the lease agreement leaves information to be desired, then the next place to turn is Tennessee's landlord tenant laws. Anything not covered by a lease is then controlled by Tennessee's landlord/tenant act.

The last bit of advice for tenants I can give is to communicate with your landlord and document any issues that arise. It is important to remember that rental properties are a source of income for landlords, and that they are more likely to turn to the court if they do not know what is going on with their property. Furthermore, if a dispute should go to court, having documentation of what has occurred can be key. When issues arise, they are more likely to be resolved through negotiations rather than in court if the landlord has the information to make an informed decision.

In conclusion, the decrease in home ownership means that rental property is now more valuable than ever in Middle Tennessee. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, failing to be prepared can lead to a loss of income or a place you call home.

Michael Wrenn is an associate attorney at Freeman & Fuson with a focus on landlord/tenant disputes. For more information contact 615-298-7272 or visit


June 10, 2015

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Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival is expected to bring in over 80,000 people to Manchester, Coffee County, Tennessee, with a majority of those people coming from out of State. The Festival has led to a field day for law enforcement over the years, especially with criminal citations for simple possession. Last year, out-of-towners who found themselves leaving Tennessee with criminal charges, were allowed to pay a fine instead of coming back to appear in Court. That won't be the case for those attending the 2015 music festival as prosecution of marijuana and other drug related offenses is changing.

Tennessee Drug Laws

Tennessee has some of the toughest drug laws in the country, especially when it comes to possession of marijuana, other drugs and drug paraphernalia. At a minimum they are Class (A) Misdemeanors which could carry up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If the marijuana seized is over ½ ounce, the police officer or agent will likely charge the person with Felony Possession of a Schedule VI - Marijuana which is a Class (E) Felony and could carry up to 6 years in jail and a $3,000 fine. Other drugs require a much smaller amount to be considered felony possession under Tennessee Law.

New Policy

In an article by Nashville's Tennessean newspaper, Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcut released a statement that individuals cited or arrested would no longer be offered the opportunity to pay a fine in lieu of appearing in Court. This means that anyone who receives charges, whether a citation or full scale arrest, will be required to travel back to Tennessee and go in front of a judge in court. No longer can defendants simply pay the fine.

Much like Coffee County is doing this year, all other counties in Middle Tennessee (Davidson, Williamson, Wilson, Sumner, Dickson, Rutherford, Marshall, Lawrence, Putnam, Robertson, Maury, Hickman and Maury Counties) require a Defendant to make an appearance in court. This includes even if you only received a citation instead of being arrested. To make matters worse, Middle Tennessee Courts have been known to require a defendant to make more than one trip to court if they are not properly prepared to have their case concluded.

Vehicle Seizures

Police officers are seizing automobiles in an effort to further profit from the drug related arrests and the Bonnaroo crowds. They can seize your vehicle in Tennessee without ever charging you with a criminal offense. If your vehicle is seized, the police officer or agent shall provide you with a copy of the Notice of Property Seizure and Forfeiture of Conveyances. You have the absolute right to file a petition with the Tennessee Department of Safety to recover the vehicle. However, you only have 30 days from being notified that a forfeiture warrant has been issued to file the petition. Failure to do this correctly shall result in loss of the vehicle forever.

Hiring An Attorney

This is why hiring an attorney to help you with your Bonnaroo charges could save you a lot of time and money and stress. Freeman & Fuson has handled a large number of Bonnaroo drug cases across Middle and East Tennessee. Contact Joey Fuson at 615-298-7272 (office) or 615-717-5176 (cell) or someone at our office if you have been charged with a marijuana or drug related offense at Bonnaroo this year.

For Bonnaroo Goers: Small Infractions Can Lead To Big Charges

June 11, 2014


Every year around this time our firm gets a flood of calls from people who receive criminal charges while on their way to or while leaving Bonnaroo. They have ranged from simple possession and paraphernalia to felony drug charges. Regardless, each call starts out the same, "I was pulled over for.....", which leads to their car getting searched and ultimately them leaving with a court date they had not planned for. So in preparation for this annual event, we at Freeman & Fuson have compiled a list of the top 5 reasons we have seen for Bonnaroo patrons getting pulled over and the counties they seem to occur in the most.

1. Speeding (TCA §55-8-152) - This may seem obvious, but many people who are on their way to Bonnaroo are in a rush to get there. Speeding is an easy way to get your car pulled over and give the officer a chance to make contact. The easy advice is to set your cruise control and keep a look out for the posted limits.
2. Following too Closely (TCA §55-8-124) - Getting pulled over for following to close to the car in front of you may be the most subjective reason on the list, but it is one we have seen each Bonnaroo season with more frequency. Make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front so that this is not even an option for an officer to pull you over.
3. Failure to use Turn Signal (TCA §55-8-143) - For 359 days a year you can probably not use a turn signal while changing lanes (we endorse that you always use a turn signal) and never have an issue. But while Bonnaroo is going on, this is an easy way for one of the State's Judicial Drug Tasks Forces to pull people over and try to search their car.
4. Littering (TCA §39-14-502) - Cigarette butts! Yes, in Tennessee, throwing cigarettes out the window is considered littering and makes you an easy target to get pulled over. Toss them in a bottle or in your ashtray until you get to where you're going.
5. Light up your License Plate (TCA §55-4-110) - A new law came on the books right after Bonnaroo last year and we wouldn't be surprised if it is enforced with some extra vigor. A lot of you will drive through the night and along with checking your headlights, taillights and brake lights, make sure the little lights on your license plate work too. In Tennessee, if your car has lights over the license plate, they are required to be working.

While every county in the mid-state will be looking for people headed to and from Bonnaroo, a few counties here look harder than others. Sumner County, Rutherford County, Montgomery County and of course Coffee County are a few we get the most Bonnaroo related calls. Davidson, Williamson and Wilson Counties are also in the running when it comes to Roo related cases.

For more information regarding marijuana and other drug related charges, go to

New Tennessee Law Criminalizes Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

May 2, 2014

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On April 29, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that will allow a mother to be prosecuted for causing a child to be born addicted or harmed because of her illegal use of narcotics during the pregnancy. The bill will allow a woman to be prosecuted for assault if the infant she is carrying is harmed or dies. The bill has an unusual sunset provision, which means that the criminal penalty will be in effect until 2016. After that time, the legislature will revisit the issue. Tennessee has criminalized drug use during pregnancy in the past, but opponents said the measure would prevent women from seeking prenatal treatment or from entering rehabilitation programs. The legislature decriminalized it for a few years, but with the use of prescription narcotics on the rise, the law has been revived.

Critics of the measure focus primarily on the rights of the mother, while supporters view that the health and safety of children should be a primary focus. In either case, the reality is children in Tennessee are being born addicted to drugs. Last year alone, there were 921 babies born dependent on prescription medication. This year, the number so far is 253 at the time of this post.

While all Tennesseans would agree that the state should protect infants from being born addicted or even from death due to the illegal actions of their mothers, the law raises some interesting questions, such as does it in fact deter women from seeking treatment? Should there be some kind of amnesty for a woman who willingly enters an addiction program to get better and protect her baby? Who will bear the cost of caring for the infant that is born to an incarcerated mother? What is the best interest of the child in all of this? Is incarceration or the fear of incarceration even a deterrent to a drug addict? What purpose does incarceration serve in preparing the woman to be a fit mother?

As "pain clinics" and illegal distribution of prescription medications continue to flourish in Tennessee, children will continue to suffer as their parents, and in this case, their mothers, deal or do not deal with their addiction. Tennesseans should look to creative solutions that consider the best interest of the mother and the infant so that both are able to live healthy, stable lives.

If you or someone you know is concerned about the effect of this law on her life, please contact the attorneys at Freeman and Fuson. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can counsel you on your legal options with a view to providing a solution that will help protect both the mother's rights and the health of a child in this situation.


Anchor Down: Tennessee Laws On Boating Under the Influence

April 14, 2014

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With Summer right around the corner there's no doubt many of you will be looking to hit the waterways. With that in mind, it may be a good time to remind everyone of the drinking and boating laws in Tennessee. Boating under the Influence is covered under Tenn. Code Ann. § 69-9-217 and states:

It is unlawful for any person to operate a vessel subject to registration on public waters of the state while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system or while have blood alcohol content of .08% or more..

Boating under the influence is not limited to just boats that have a motor, but includes any type of watercraft that is required to be registered under Tennessee law. Boating under the Influence as a first time offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor and can carry the following penalties:

- Fines from $250.00 to $2,500.00;
- 11 months 29 days in confinement;
- Suspension of boating license up to 1 year;
- Trash and litter removal; and
- Probation with such conditions as completion of an alcohol safety boating program or alcohol rehab

During the 2013 Fourth of July weekend alone, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency checked more than 3,300 vessels, made 10 arrests for BUI and issued more than 160 citations. There is one very important exception to this law and that is that it does not apply when the boat is anchored.

So, anchor down or have a sober boater ready to drive you around.

BOLO: Be On the Look Out: Tennessee Highway Patrol Kicks Off Campaign to Enforce Texting While Driving Law

April 9, 2014

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On April 3rd the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced a campaign that will take aim at distracted drivers. We have all seen these drivers, and we maybe ones ourselves. This campaign includes placing troopers and local law enforcement in SUVs and tractor-trailers so that they can get a better vantage point to see if drivers are texting. The goal of the new campaign is to reduce traffic fatalities statewide.

Tennessee enacted the "Texting while Driving Law" in July of 2009. As a law firm that handles a large number of traffic citations, this law has not been enforced with any regularity until now. Texting while driving is covered under Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-199 and is a very specific statute. In part it reads:

"No person while driving a motor vehicle on any public road or highway shall use a handheld mobile phone to transmit or read a written message."

The law only applies to when a vehicle is in motion and does not apply to a person dialing a phone number or receiving a call. Texting while driving is a Class C Misdemeanor and is considered a non-moving traffic violation.

Most of us think that the act of typing is what is prohibited but based on the language of the law even reading a text or email will get you pulled over. We all do it, but the best advice is to use a hands free device if you are going to talk while you drive, and you should wait to read your texts and emails until you get where you are going or at least until you are stopped. Waiting to read a text or email or responding to one won't hurt you and will not cost you anything but getting a ticket or causing a wreck will cost a trip to court and a fine and might end up getting you and others on the road hurt.

Being Convicted Of Domestic Assault In Tennessee Will Keep You From Owning A Gun

April 8, 2014

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Did you know that if you plead guilty even to a misdemeanor domestic assault in Tennessee you will be prohibited from not only owning a gun or other firearm but you cannot be involved in the sale of guns, firearms, and even ammunition?

Recently the United States Supreme Court ruled that an individual who is convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault in Tennessee may not possess or be involved in the commercial sale of firearms or ammunition.

Congress enacted §922(g)(9) to "close a dangerous loophole" in the gun control laws; while felons have been barred from possessing firearms, many persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault were still able to do so. The statute provides that any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm.

The issue in US v. Castleman revolved around the definition of domestic assault under Federal code §922(g)(9) and the definition of domestic assault under Tennessee Code §39-13-111(b). Under §922(g)(9) domestic assault is defined as an offense that is a misdemeanor and has an element, use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon. Under Tennessee law, which Castlman was originally convicted of, misdemeanor domestic assault is intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to another.

In 2008 Federal authorities learned that Castleman was selling guns on the black market, and he was later indicted on two counts of violating §922(g)(9). Castleman moved to dismiss the charges arguing that his Tennessee domestic assault conviction did not qualify as a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" because it did not have, as an element, the use of physical force.

Don't agree to plead to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge without knowing your rights. Freeman and Fuson can help explain your options so you don't give up one your greatest rights as a United States citizen- the right to own a gun.

Forced Blood Testing in Tennessee: Tenn. Code Ann. 55-10-406 (f) amended January 1, 2012

May 8, 2012
House Bill 0715 amended Tenn. Code Ann. 55-10-406 (f) Tennessee Blood Testing and Implied Consent Law to add additional ways the State of Tennessee can take your blood without your consent for the purpose of determining blood alcohol content. These new laws became effective January 1, 2012.

Originally, according to Tenn. Code Ann. 55-10-406 (f), if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of another has committed a violation of § 39-13-213(a)(2), § 39-13-218, or § 55-10-401 the officer shall cause the driver to be tested for the purpose of determining the alcohol or drug content of the driver's blood.

In addition to the original section (f), amended sections (2) and (3) state that if a police officer in Tennessee has probable cause that you have been drinking and driving, and one of the following factors exist, the officer "shall" cause the driver to be tested for the purpose of determining the alcohol o1 drug content of the driver's blood:

1. Driver has been previously convicted of § 39-13-213(a)(2) (vehicular homicide), § 39-13-218 (aggravated vehicular homicide) or § 55-10-401 (DUI); or

2. A passenger in the motor vehicle is a child under sixteen (16) years of age.

Furthermore, regardless of the reason for the testing under section (f), the blood test shall be performed in accordance with the procedure set forth in this section and shall be performed regardless of whether the driver does or does not consent to the test.

So, anyone who has pled to a DUI and is stopped by a police officer for suspected DUI, can be forced to give their blood. The new changes to the Implied Consent laws are just now being enforced by police officers in Tennessee and cases involving forced blood tests for repeat DUI offenders are just now making their ways through the Courts. These new laws must be challenged. If you have been forced to give blood following suspicion of DUI, seek an experienced lawyer to defend you in Court.

Show Me The Money: Civil Asset Forfeiture in Tennessee

April 11, 2012

Civil Forfeiture

In Tennessee, the police can seize your car, take your money, take your personal property, take your home, sell these items and use the proceeds of that sale for their benefit without the person being found guilty of a crime. In fact, the police can seize and sell these items without even charging the owner with a crime. And worst of all, the laws in Tennessee promote this activity.

Civil forfeiture is different than criminal forfeiture. In Tennessee, in civil forfeiture cases the police only have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property sought to be seized is related to a crime or criminal activity. In criminal cases the court must prove a Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Next, in criminal forfeiture cases the property is seized following a criminal conviction. In civil forfeiture proceedings, no criminal charges need to exist. If they do exist, the police can take your property or money regardless of the outcome. Additionally, in criminal forfeiture cases the property is the object of the prosecution and the owner makes a claim on the property through the procedures set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. 40-33-201 et. seq. The majority of the forfeiture cases in Tennessee are civil.

Civil asset forfeiture laws in Tennessee were given a (D-) by the Institute of Justice in their comprehensive study of civil forfeiture laws of the United States named Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture ( The grade was based on several factors. One of the main reasons for the low grade is that in Tennessee owners are effectively presumed guilty and in innocent owner claims bear the burden of proof to recover their property. In Tennessee, the police have the lower burden of proof of preponderance of the evidence to prove that the property sought to be seized is related to criminal activity. And once they seize the property or cash, they keep 100% without having to report how they used the proceeds. Basically, the Institute of Justice thinks Tennessee is doing a poor job protecting the constitutional rights of its citizen as it relates to civil forfeiture laws.

Channel 5 News Report

The local media also thinks Tennessee police officers are doing a poor job. In Channel 5 news report last year, the news channel spent months investigating the drug interdiction officers in various counties and on several task forces. One particular incident covered in the news report involves an officer seizing a vehicle on the Interstate 40 without any reason. Although he alleged the driver of the vehicle was swerving, the helicopter in the air tells a different story. It has nothing to do with swerving as the video clearly shows and has everything to do with profiling. Police in Tennessee admittedly profile and it is being used by each and every police officer sitting on the side of the interstate. These officers often pick their target based simply on the type of vehicle and the state the vehicle is from. They then get behind or beside that vehicle and basically track the vehicle until it commits a "traffic violation". As the video shows, if the driver does not commit a true violation of the law, the police often still choose to go ahead and stop the vehicle despite it being a direct violation of the Tennessee and US Constitution.

Money, Money, Money

So why do the police do this? Money, Money, Money. The State of Tennessee receives millions and millions of dollars each year from civil asset forfeiture. They are among the highest in the country on the percentage of proceeds that go to law enforcement. And while some states use this money for education and public works, Tennessee allows local law enforcement to spend this money on drug enforcement. If the local police did not need any more incentive, the local law enforcement agencies receive 100% of proceeds for their respective agency. They cannot spend it on their salaries, but they do spend it on their agency which continues to operate in large part due to the millions of dollars they bring in each year.

When Phil Williams asked Kim Helper, District Attorney for the 21st Judicial District, whether it was all about making money, she responded: "Well, you know, when you say 'make money,' I guess it is a way for us to continue to fund our operations so that we can put an end to drug trafficking and the drug trade within this district."

Further proof that the police activity is based on the money, sources reveal that the police on Interstate 40 are pulling over vehicles on the westbound lane of the interstate at a much higher rate than on the eastbound lanes. This is because they believe that drugs go east and money goes west. So they are clearly following the money and not the drugs. Again, the police agency that seized the property keeps 100% of the proceeds!

How Do You Fight Civil Asset Forfeiture?

To get your property back, you must file a claim with the Tennessee Department of Safety within thirty (30) days of receipt of the civil forfeiture notice. Failure to file a claim will result in a waiver of the owners' rights to claim the property or cash and will result in permanent forfeiture. See The person claiming the property is entitled hearing in front of an administrative judge. If the owner loses at the administrative level, they can file an appeal in the Chancery Court. A final appeal goes to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court the same as any civil case.

Hire a Lawyer

The person claiming the property is entitled to a lawyer. Because the laws in Tennessee do not favor the owner of property who has been targeted by local police, hiring an experienced trial lawyer is very important. Many lawyers offer free consultations for asset forfeiture cases and can provide invaluable assistance in your fight to reclaim your property and money.

Freeman & Fuson to relocate to 9 Music Square West

February 15, 2012

On Monday, February 13, 2012, Freeman & Fuson made the decision to relocate their office to 9 Music Square West. The location is an early 1900's Victorian House located directly across from Sony Entertainment on Music Row. The beautiful home will have a full media/conference room, 5 offices, 2 bathrooms, and a lobby for clients. We plan on being relocated by June 1, 2012.

This is a defining moment for our law firm. We made this decision knowing it will help our law firm service our existing client base more effectively while allowing us to become more visible and attractive to new clients.

Please come out and see the new building when we have our Open House this Spring 2012. Thank everyone for their support.

State of Tennessee v. George Matthews

August 10, 2011

After four (4) years criminal and at the verge of a second trial, we resolved the State v. Matthews. Following a successful appeal to the Criminal Court of Appeals, the appellate Court remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial. See State of Tennessee v. George Washington Matthews, M2009-00692-CCA-R3-CD. The defendant was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of the lesser charge of facilitation of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class C felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. 0.5 grams. Following the appeal, Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. reversed the judgments of the trial court because the trial court failed to fulfill its role as the thirteenth juror and remanded the case back to the trial court for a new trial. The second trial was set for Monday, August 8th, 2011 before the Honorable Seth Norman. Following negotiations with the State and as a result of a favorable ruling in the Court of Appeals, we finally reached a favorable settlement days before a second trial was scheduled to take place.

It goes to show that appeals work and if you fight hard enough you can get a favorable result for your clients. If anyone needs your case appealed to the Criminal Court of Appeals, contact my office and schedule a free consultation.