Felony and Misdemeanor Attorneys in Franklin

Misdemeanor vs Felony Charges in Tennessee

What are the differences between felonies & misdemeanors?

Tennessee law divides criminal offenses into two major categories: felonies and misdemeanors. For more than 30 years, the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates has provided vigorous defense for middle Tennessee residents accused of felony and misdemeanor crimes.

What are the felony classes in Tennessee?

Felonies are serious crimes that threaten the lives and property of others. Crimes against persons include assault, DUI, domestic violence, drug crimes, kidnapping, involuntary or voluntary manslaughter, first-degree or second-degree murder, rape and robbery. Felony crimes against property include arson, burglary, credit card fraud and theft.

The Tennessee Criminal Code categorizes felony in classes according to the severity of the crime. The punishment escalates accordingly.

  • Capital crime: Includes first-degree murder and felony murder. Punishments include death and life imprisonment
  • Class A felony: Not less than 15 nor more than 60 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $50,000, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class B felony: Not less than eight nor more than 30 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $25,000, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class C felony: Not less than three years nor more than 15 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $10,000, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class D felony: Not less than two years nor more than 12 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $5,000, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class E felony: Not less than one year nor more than six years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $3,000, unless otherwise provided by statute

If you have been charged with a felony, such as drug trafficking, you need a lawyer skilled in handling felony charges to represent your rights.

What are misdemeanor charges?

Misdemeanors are crimes against persons, such as simple assault, disorderly conduct, DUI, domestic violence, drug possession, prostitution, and against property, such as theft, trespass and vandalism. While less severe than felonies, misdemeanors still bear serious consequences including fines and time in a local or county jail in middle Tennessee.

The Tennessee Criminal Code also divides misdemeanors into classes according to severity with escalating punishments.

  • Class A misdemeanor: Not greater than 11 months 29 days in jail or a fine not to exceed $2,500, or both, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class B misdemeanor: Not greater than six months in jail or a fine not to exceed $500, or both, unless otherwise provided by statute
  • Class C misdemeanor: Not greater than 30 days in jail or a fine not to exceed $50, or both, unless otherwise provided by statute

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, including drug possession, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you.

What is the criminal justice process in Tennessee?

Tennessee courts follow the same criminal justice process as most other states in the United States, with the process including the following steps.

First comes arrest and pre-trial.

  • Arrest: Law enforcement can arrest you if they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.
  • Bail hearing: A judge determines if you can be released on bail while awaiting trial.
  • Arraignment: You'll be informed of the charges against you and your rights, including the right to a Franklin criminal defense attorney.
  • Preliminary hearing (felonies only): A judge determines if there's enough evidence to proceed to trial.
  • Plea bargain: You and the prosecutor may negotiate a plea deal in exchange for a lesser charge or sentence.

Next comes your trial.

  • General sessions court: Handles misdemeanors and preliminary hearings for felonies.
  • Circuit or criminal court: Handles felony trials and misdemeanors if a jury trial is requested.
  • Trial: You have the right to a jury trial, where the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the trial:

  • Sentencing: If convicted, the judge determines your punishment based on sentencing guidelines.
  • Appeals: You have the right to appeal the verdict or sentence. Our Franklin criminal defense attorneys can help with this process.

What are potential defenses for felony and misdemeanor offenses?

Our Franklin criminal defense lawyers deal with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor charges. Here's a breakdown of some common defenses we might explore, depending on the specifics of your case.

We may challenge the reason for the stop or arrest:

  • Police can only stop you if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
  • Evidence obtained through an unlawful search cannot be used against you.

We can also challenge the evidence against you:

  • The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If their case is weak, we can argue for dismissal.
  • Improper handling of evidence (chain of custody) can raise questions about its reliability.
  • Statements made during interrogation must be obtained following specific warnings. Miranda rights violations can lead to suppression of evidence.

Additionally, we may employ other strategies, including:

  • Alibi defense: We can establish you were somewhere else when the crime occurred. This can be a powerful defense but requires strong evidence like witness testimony or documented proof.
  • Self-defense: You have the right to defend yourself from imminent harm.
  • Defense of others: Similar to self-defense, you can use reasonable force to protect another person from imminent harm.
  • Mistake of fact: You may have acted illegally, but if you had a reasonable mistake about the facts of the situation, you might not be guilty. For instance, if you genuinely believed an item was not stolen when you received it.
  • Entrapment: Law enforcement cannot induce someone to commit a crime they wouldn't have otherwise committed.
  • Lack of criminal intent: Some crimes require specific intent, like knowledge or recklessness. If you lacked the necessary mental state, you may not be guilty.
  • Pre-trial diversion programs: In some cases, depending on the offense and your background, you might be eligible for pre-trial diversion programs. These allow you to avoid prosecution by completing probation, community service, or other requirements.
  • Plea bargains: Often, negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor can be a strategic option. This might involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Remember – every case is unique. Your best defense strategy depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation. If you are facing criminal charges, consult with our experienced Franklin criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. We can advise you of your rights, explore all potential defenses, and guide you through the legal process.

Frequently asked questions about felonies and misdemeanors in Franklin

Our clients often have questions about the criminal justice process, and we can answer those here.

What is the difference between prison and jail?

Jails hold people for short-term stays, typically less than a year. This includes those awaiting trial, those sentenced for minor offenses (misdemeanors), or those violating probation. Prisons are for long-term sentences, usually exceeding a year. They house convicted criminals serving sentences for serious crimes (felonies).

Jails are typically run by local law enforcement agencies (county or city) and serve the surrounding area. Prisons are run by state or federal government agencies and house offenders from a wider jurisdiction.

Think of jail as a detention center and prison as a correctional facility.

What is the impact of a criminal record?

A criminal record can have a significant and far-reaching effect on your life, potentially affecting your:

  • Employment: Background checks are common for many jobs. A criminal record can make it harder to get hired, especially for certain professions with licensing requirements (e.g., healthcare, finance).
  • Housing: Landlords may be hesitant to rent to someone with a criminal record, particularly if the offense involved violence or damage to property.
  • Education: Some educational institutions might restrict enrollment for certain offenses.
  • Loans: Obtaining loans (mortgage, auto) can be more difficult with a criminal record, as lenders may view you as a higher risk.
  • Public benefits: Eligibility for certain public benefits may be restricted depending on the crime.
  • Relationships: A criminal record can damage your personal and professional relationships.
  • Firearms: You may be prohibited from owning or purchasing firearms.

How can I appeal a conviction?

Appealing a conviction is a complicated legal process. Here's a general overview to get you started.

Act quickly. There are strict deadlines to file an appeal, typically within weeks or a few months of your conviction. Missing the deadline could eliminate your right to appeal.

Appeals are challenging, and our experienced criminal defense attorneys are your best asset. We can navigate the legal procedures, identify potential grounds for appeal, and represent you in court.

Remember, an appeal isn't a retrial. You can't introduce new evidence. Instead, you argue that a legal error occurred during your trial that unfairly affected the outcome. Some common grounds for appeal include:

  • Jury errors: Selection of unqualified jurors, juror misconduct, or errors in jury instructions.
  • Evidentiary errors: Improperly admitted evidence or exclusion of relevant evidence.
  • Prosecutorial misconduct: Improper remarks or tactics by the prosecutor during the trial.
  • Judge errors: The judge made a crucial error in ruling on motions or procedures during the trial.

The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates can help you with an appeal, and with all aspects of the criminal justice process.

Experienced criminal defense lawyers in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, getting a skilled attorney on your side can be the best defense. At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we understand that a criminal record can significantly affect your future. You don’t have to navigate this process alone. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney from our office today to discuss your case, explore appeal options, and fight for the best possible outcome. Call our offices or submit our contact form to set up a consultation in Franklin, Brentwood, or Columbia today.

Related Content: