For persons in Tennessee who are charged with drug possession, a criminal charge is not the end to their troubles.  Under Tennessee, certain persons who are found to be in possession of drugs can be assessed an Unauthorized Substance Tax by Tennessee’s Department of revenue.

 

The Tennessee Department of Revenue will send out a “Notice of Assessment” that indicates that a person has been found in possession of untaxed, unauthorized substances and that they are liable for tax payments to the state.  The amount taxed will vary depending on the substance and the amount you were alleged to possess, but will always be greater than $10,000.00.

 

Why is the tax greater than $10,000.00?  There are two reasons.  First, under Tennessee law, individuals who possess unauthorized substances can be categorized as “merchants”.  A “merchant” is defined as any person who actively or constructively possesses any unauthorized substance in a quantity sufficient to create a principal tax liability of at least $10,000.00.  This bring us to our second reason, the Tennessee Legislature has created a schedule of tax amounts on unauthorized substances.  For example, the State levies 40 cents for each gram of harvested marijuana, $350.00 for each plant of marijuana and $50.00 for each gram of cocaine.  When the State receives a report from the arresting agency, they review the amounts, determine if it meets the $10,000.00 threshold, and if so, assess the tax against you.

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In Tennessee, if you are found to be in possession of over ½ ounce (14.175 grams) of marijuana you will most likely be charged with violating TCA 39-17-417, Possession of a Schedule VI with Intent to Manufacture, Deliver or Sell, a Class E Felony, which carries 1-6 years in prison.  However, you may not be guilty of this crime, a felony, despite the weight of the marijuana being greater than 14.175 grams.  The reason is that in Tennessee the amount of marijuana is not the only factor for the jury to consider when determining if you are guilty of a felony for possessing marijuana with the intent to manufacture, deliver or sell the marijuana.

Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-419 states that it may be inferred from the amount of a marijuana possessed by an offender, along with other relevant facts surrounding the arrest, that the marijuana was possessed with the purpose of selling or otherwise dispensing.  The statute goes on to say that it may be inferred from circumstances indicating a casual exchange among individuals of a small amount of marijuana so exchanged was possessed not with the purpose of selling. In State of Tennessee v. John Belew, 348 S.W.3d 186 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2005), the Criminal Appeals Court concluded that this statute permits the jury to draw an inference of intent to sell or deliver when the amount of the controlled substance and other relevant facts surrounding the arrest are considered together.  Therefore, the State of Tennessee must present some evidence of intent, in addition to the weight of the marijuana, to convict an individual in Tennessee.

Many felony drug cases begin with a drug detective or police officer using techniques like confidential informants, wire-taps, GPS surveillance, or various other tactics to prove that an individual is in the business of selling the illegal drug – in this case marijuana.  The government spends lots of resources, sometimes from their own task force pockets, to get the drug dealers off the street.  In cases like these, the issue is typically not whether the marijuana involved was for personal use or for resale because the amounts are much greater than an amount typically possessed for personal consumption.  Plus, the government usually has some type of proof to put before the jury relating to specific drug deals, exchanges, money laundering or other dealing activities, which would be the type of evidence needed to rebut the inference in T.C.A 39-17-419.

In Davidson County it was normal practice for the Sheriff’s Department to serve respondents for orders of protection by telephone and never actually hand them a physical copy of the petition.  On June 6, 2016, a Davidson County Circuit Judge ruled this practice of “service” via telephone as insufficient.

Orders of Protection are civil actions that, if granted, can have significant legal ramification, including contempt of court or criminal charges.  The significance of this order is that if an individual was only served by telephone, and never actually handed a physical paper, and then failed to appear at court, an Order of Protection was granted against them.  The June 6th ruling holds that such an Order of Protection would be void because the court did not have personal jurisdiction against the individual who was only served by a telephone call.

This is obviously an issue of great concern, and is expressed in June 6th opinion.  In a footnote the Judge goes on to say, “The Court is concerned that if this method of service of process is the current policy of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, the courts of the Twentieth Judicial District may be entering Orders of Protection against respondents in violation of their due process rights…. This Court is fearful that hundreds, if not thousands, of orders of protection and corresponding criminal convictions thereon could be void as the courts never obtained personal jurisdiction over the respondent.”

Nashville is set to host its summer tradition of CMA Fest, which will welcome over one hundred and fifty thousand country music fans to the downtown area. With such a concentration of people to the downtown area, the Nashville Metropolitan Police will also be out in large numbers.

As native Nashvillians, we know this event can be a great time to enjoy the best country music in the world. However, your weekend can get ruined in no time with one wrong decision. As criminal defense attorneys, we get a lot of calls after CMA Fest has ended from people who are arrested or cited and are being forced to make an unplanned trip back to the Music City.

To help you avoid getting in trouble at CMA Fest and having to make this unexpected trip back to Nashville, we have compiled a list of 8 tips to help you have a safe and incident free 2016 CMA Fest.

It’s that time of year again, when 85,000+ music lovers flock to the farmlands of Manchester, Tennessee for four days of great vibes, great tunes, and lots of high fives. It’s an event that people plan for all year, including local authorities. With all eyes on them this weekend, Tennessee authorities will be out in force ensuring everyone gets in and out of town safely.

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I’ve been part of the Bonnaroo experience several times and know firsthand what an incredible experience it can be. As a criminal defense attorney in Tennessee that specializes in representing people with DUI, marijuana and other drug possession charges, I’ve also seen many careless festival goers’ weekends ruined before they even start.

With a little planning ahead and some common decency, this weekend can and should be one of the highlights of your summer.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.