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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.

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.

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.

Mistaken Identity Arrests On The Rise?

April 3, 2010

"A mistaken identity arrest occurs almost every day, said policing experts and officials at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers."

One lady in Colorado was discussed in this CNN report from February 2010.

I have recently been retained in a case like this in Middle Tennessee. It is pretty scary and happens all too often. One way this could happen to you is if you are simply confused with another person who has a warrant for his arrest. You think you are about to be home for supper and a movie, next thing you know you are in jail for three days. Although you would think the police department would have ways to identify each person in their system, they make mistakes. These mistakes are often human error. So while Joan Doe has a warrant for her arrest and you just so happen to be recently married Joan Smith Doe, you may be in for a long weekend.

Ms. Doe: "Officer, I swear that is not me...I have never been in trouble, it must be a mistake..."

Officer: "Lady, we do not make can talk to the judge on Monday"

Another way this could happen is when you have had your name in the system for whatever reason, and either the clerk, police department or probation department simply fail to do their job. This occurs when they fail to remove you from the system, incorrectly confuse you with another person in the system, or fail to acknowledge that a warrant has been served and resolved.

Ms. Doe: "Officer, I swear I did my community service, paid everything, it has been 7 years since that happened..."

Officer: "I bet you did lady, you can tell that to the judge on Monday"

My friends, clients, and members of Fuson Law, P.C. Facebook Page, this could happen to you. I have had three cases involving this happening in the past two years.

My thoughts, if this does happen to you, be courteous to the officer and call me at 615-717-5176 and I will come to the police station.

Going forward, I would think that with laziness in this country at an all time high and with budget cuts in the government every year, these mistakes will continue to happen and may even increase in the future.

Know your rights, know an attorney, and be safe!

Defendant smacks lawyer and gets rewarded with new trial?

January 29, 2010

This is a Shelby County Case that was reported by the TN Supreme Court at

State of Tennessee v. Tommy Holmes -Shelby County- Supreme Court granted permission to appeal in this case to address whether the trial court erred in ruling that an indigent defendant forfeited his right to counsel at trial by telling his appointed lawyer, "I know how to get rid of you," and, at a subsequent meeting, physically assaulting his lawyer by striking the lawyer«s eyeglasses with his finger. The defendant was tried by a jury pro se and convicted of aggravated rape. Supreme Court held that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court committed reversible error in ruling that the defendant had forfeited his right to appointed counsel at trial. While the defendant«s physical attack on his lawyer was serious misconduct, it did not rise to the level of "extremely serious misconduct" sufficient to warrant an immediate forfeiture. State v. Carruthers, 35 S.W.3d516, 548 (Tenn. 2000). Because the defendant was erroneously denied his fundamental constitutional right to counsel, we must reverse his conviction and remand this matter for appointment of new counsel and a new trial. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is reversed.