Felony Offenses in Tennessee
Felonies are classified as A, B, C, D, and E, with Class A being the most serious
- Class A Felony - A Class A felony is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine up to $50,000. Aggravated rape, which is when rape is carried out using a weapon as a threat or that results in injury to the victim, is one example of a Class A felony.
- Class B Felony - Class B felonies, such as aggravated burglary resulting in serious bodily injury, carry a maximum sentence of anywhere from eight to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
- Class C Felony - Class C felonies, such as aggravated assault, carry a sentence that can range from three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Class D Felony - Class D felonies are punishable by anywhere from two to 12 years in prison along with a fine of up to $5,000. An example of a Class D felony would be the possession of marijuana between 10 and 70 pounds.
- Class E Felony - Class E felonies, the least serious, carry possible sentences of one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. An example of a Class E felony would be the theft of property worth more than $1,000 but less than $2,500.
The Criminal Process in Tennessee
A criminal case begins with an investigation and arrest. The steps that follow generally include:
The Preliminary Hearing
The preliminary hearing will be held within 10 days, but if you’re charged with a misdemeanor, you have the option of resolving the charge immediately at the General Sessions level. If you’re charged with a felony, you can request that the matter be presented to a Grand Jury composed of 13 citizens from the county where the incident occurred.
If you are charged as a result of the hearing or by a Grand Jury ruling, you will have the charges formally presented to you at your arraignment. At this point, you can request a public defender, or if you have already hired a criminal defense attorney, the court will determine if that person is qualified to represent you.
The Discussion Docket
At this point, you — the defendant — will enter a plea. If you opt for a guilty plea or to make a plea agreement, you may be sentenced right then, or a sentencing hearing may be scheduled. If you plead not guilty, a trial date will be set, which must be within 90 days if you’re still in custody, or 270 days if you’re out on bail.
At trial, the prosecution must prove to a jury of 12 of your peers that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This process is generally pretty straightforward and will give you the opportunity, along with your defense attorney, to present your defense.
If you are found guilty, a pre-sentencing investigation will be conducted by the Adult Parole Authority, after which you will be sentenced.
The Appeals Process
If a defendant is convicted, he or she has the right to appeal the conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeals and then on to the Tennessee Supreme Court. You or your attorney can file a brief alleging prejudice, misconduct, or error of law in your trial.
The Court of Criminal Appeals, consisting of 12 judges who sit on three separate panels, will consider the brief, along with a counter-brief by the prosecution, and then render a decision. The case may be referred back to a lower court with further instructions, the verdict may be overturned for reasons of a serious error, or the proceedings and verdict may be left standing as they are.
If the appeals court rejects your brief, you can appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, but unlike the Court of Criminal Appeals, the high court is under no obligation to consider your petition.
Why You Need an Experienced Defense Attorney On Your Side
If you’ve been charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor, your life as you know it may hang in the balance. If you’re convicted, it will go on your permanent criminal record, which can make it difficult to obtain employment and present other challenges, such as receiving public assistance. If you’re convicted of a felony, you can lose your right to vote and to own a firearm. Depending on the nature of the crime, you could even be facing a lengthy prison sentence
With so much at stake, you need to obtain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not even answer questions from the police, let alone the prosecutors. As you’ve heard many times on TV, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Let your attorney do your communicating for you — and also protect your rights every inch of the way.
Brazil Clark, PLLC has spent years working with individuals in Nashville who have been charged with a crime. Whether they’re facing simple misdemeanor charges or more serious felony charges, the attorneys at Brazil Clark, PLLC have extensive experience inside and outside of the courtroom. Their legal team is prepared to provide you with aggressive criminal defense services and will do everything they can to pursue the best possible outcome for your case. So don’t wait. If you’ve been charged with a crime, call or reach out to Brazil Clark, PLLC today to schedule a case consultation.