Author: John Barnes

Mail and Wire Fraud: Frequently Asked Questions

Because we rely so heavily on the mail system and other forms of communication, mail and wire fraud are commonly-charged white collar crimes. If you are accused of committing fraud, all it takes is a single mailing, telephone call, or email to trigger mail and wire fraud charges. These are serious federal crimes that carry heavy consequences. 

At Barnes Law, we have the experience and skill that you need to face your mail and wire fraud charges and get a fair result. Knoxville criminal defense attorney John Barnes can help you understand the charges, explain your options, and get you through this difficult time. If you’re facing mail and wire fraud charges and don’t know what to do, call us at 865-805-5703 or contact us online

What is Mail Fraud?

Mail fraud is broadly defined under federal lawas any attempt to commit fraud or perform a fraudulent act by using any mail system, including the United States Postal Service, as well as private carriers such as FedEx or UPS. 

The most well-known form of mail fraud is a Ponzi or pyramid scheme such as the one run by Bernie Madoff. Other common forms of mail fraud involve mailings soliciting donations for fake charities, mortgage finance schemes, and fictitious lotteries and other contests. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the fraud does not need to have anything to do with the mail itself. You can be charged with mail fraud simply because you used the mail system as part of your business.  

What is Wire Fraud?

Wire fraud is also a federal offensebroadly defined as any attempt to commit fraud by using telephone lines or other electronic means of communication. 

An extremely common and well-known example of wire fraud is the “Nigerian Prince” email scam. Wire fraud also includes email phishing, telemarketing scams, and other attempts to commit fraud via the telephone, email, and the internet. 

Are Mail and Wire Fraud Federal or State Crimes?

Mail fraud and wire fraud have been federal crimes since 1872. This is primarily because mail and wire fraud frequently cross state lines, and are therefore subject to federal jurisdiction. However, they also typically use either the federal mail system or other interstate means of communications.

Why am I Being Charged with Mail and Wire Fraud in a State Where I Don’t Live?

The rules of federal jurisdiction allow you to be indicted and tried in any state where the fraud took place. 

For example, let’s say someone ran a mortgage fraud scheme out of an office in the District of Columbia.  However, all of the mailings were sent from a mailing address right across the border in Maryland. The mailings were sent to people in 13 different states, including Tennessee. Federal prosecutors could charge the defendants in DC, Maryland, or any one of the states where the victims received their mail.

Federal prosecutors choose where they file the charges based on a number of factors. They may choose a particular state because that state was impacted more than the other states. Alternatively, there may be political reasons behind the choice. And of course, federal prosecutors are likely to choose the state where they believe they have the best chance of obtaining a conviction.  

What Are the Elements of Mail or Wire Fraud?

Every crime has elements (or parts) that the prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction. If the prosecution cannot prove one or more of the elements of the crime, the charges should be dismissed, or the jury should acquit the defendant.

There are three elements of wire and mail fraud:

  1. A scheme or plan to commit fraud;
  2. The intent to commit fraud;
  3. The use of interstate mails or wire communications

Again, mail and wire fraud are defined very broadly. Merely using the mail or the telephone can trigger mail and wire fraud charges.

Can I be Convicted Even if I Didn’t Steal Any Money?

Yes, you can be convicted even if you didn’t benefit in any way from your actions. The prosecution only needs to prove that you intended to commit fraud and does not need to prove that anyone was actually defrauded.

What are the Potential Penalties?

Mail and wire fraud are serious federal crimes and prosecutors are aggressive in pursuing convictions. It’s important to note that you can be charged with a separate crime for each alleged act of fraud – for example, each mailing can trigger a separate count for mail fraud. In addition, you can be charged with multiple counts for both mail and wire fraud. As a result, the penalties can quickly add up and seem overwhelming. The possible penalties for each count of mail and wire fraud are as follows: 

  • Prison sentence of up to 20 years
  • Individuals can be fined up to $250,000
  • Organizations can be fined up to $500,000

In addition to prison time and hefty fines, a felony conviction for mail or wire fraud will be public record. Your reputation could be irreparably damaged, and a conviction could harm your prospects of future employment.

What are the Possible Defenses? 

There are defenses that can be successfully argued in order to avoid a conviction for mail and wire fraud. Here are some of the defenses that can be raised:

  • Lack of intent. In order to be found guilty, you had to intend to commit fraud. What may appear to be fraud to the prosecution, may be the result of poor management, reckless business practices, or simple negligence. 
  • Good faith. Another defense that relies on a lack of intent to commit fraud, here it is argued that you had an honest, good faith belief that the venture would be successful for everyone involved. 
  • Puffery. Every business engages in some “puffery” in order to sell their product or service. To put in another way, representations that were made about potential success were statements of opinion, minor exaggerations, or otherwise immaterial. 

Contact a Knoxville Tennessee Mail and Wire Fraud Defense Attorney

Mail and wire fraud charges are complex and aggressively prosecuted. Criminal defense attorney John Barnes can help you face your mail and wire fraud charges and get you a fair result. Don’t delay and jeopardize your future – call us at 865-805-5703 or contact us onlineto schedule a free consultation.  

Identity Theft is a Serious Crime

While identity theft is nothing new, thanks to the internet and our growing dependence on technology and electronic communication, identity theft is skyrocketing. We are much more vigilant regarding identity theft now that we were in previous years. The state and federal governments have enacted legislation in order to aggressively combat this increase in identity theft crimes. In addition, law enforcement is under increasing pressure to charge defendants with identity theft, and more importantly, get convictions.

If you’ve been charged with identity theft, you need someone on your side. This area of the law is complex and carries heavy consequences that could change your life forever. Identity theft defense attorney John Barnes can help you understand your options and prepare the best possible defense. Don’t leave your future in the hands of the prosecution – Barnes Law can help you get a fair result. Call us at 865-805-5703 or contact us onlinein order to schedule a free consultation. 

Identity Theft Under Tennessee Law

Identity theft is governed primarily by Section 39-14-150of the Tennessee Code. The statute makes it illegal to do the following: 

  1. Buy, use, obtain, possess, or sell the someone else’s personal information, which includes any information or data that can be used to identify a person;
  2. With the intent to commit any unlawful act such as obtaining credit, goods, or services in the name of someone else; 
  3. Without that person’s consent or lawful authorization. 

In order to convict you of identity theft, the prosecution needs to prove that you obtained someone else’s personal information with the intention of committing some unlawful act without their consent. 

Identity theft is a serious crime. Under Tennessee law, identity theft is an automatic Class D Felony. This means that you are facing a prison sentence of two to 12 years and a fine of up to $5,000 if you are convicted. Generally speaking, the sentence and fines will increase according to how much harm was done to the victim. 

Identity Theft Trafficking

Identify theft charges aren’t limited solely to instances of obtaining or using someone’s personal information. Tennessee law also makes it illegal to engage in “identity theft trafficking.” Identity theft trafficking is charged when (1) the defendant is alleged to have sold or otherwise transferred someone’s personal information without their consent; and (2) they knew or should have known that the information would be used for unlawful purposes. 

For purposes of proving intent to engage in identity theft trafficking, Tennessee law expressly allows the jury to consider as evidence the fact that the defendant possessed the information of five or more people without their consent. To put it another way, having the personal information of five or more people is sufficient to charge you with identity theft trafficking. 

Identity theft trafficking is a Class C Felony, punishable by a prison sentence of three to 15 years and up to $10,000 in fines. In comparison to simple identity theft, trafficking carries a potentially longer prison sentence and larger fines. 

Common Types of Identity Theft

There are many ways to commit identity theft and for a wide variety of purposes. Here are some examples of obvious instances of identity theft:

  • Using a stolen credit card to make purchases online
  • Using a stolen social security number and other information to apply for a loan
  • Using a stolen ID in order to purchase alcohol
  • Using stolen medical information in order to obtain health insurance coverage
  • Using a stolen social security number in order to obtain a passport

The examples above are pretty straightforward, but it’s important to remember that identity theft isn’t always obvious. In addition, the prosecution has to prove that you have actually committed identity theft.

Identity Theft Defenses

If you’ve been charged with identity theft, it’s important to understand exactly what the prosecution has to prove – that you used someone else’s identity without their consent and with the intent to commit an unlawful act. Understanding the elements of identity theft can help you formulate a defense. 

For example, you may be able to argue that there was a misunderstanding between you and the other person and you thought they had given you their consent. While this defense is difficult between two people who don’t know each other, it can be successful when the alleged identity theft occurred between friends or family. 

You may also be able to argue that although you had the other person’s personal information without their consent, you did not intend to do anything with it. Intent can be difficult for the prosecution to prove, and they will have to rely on circumstantial evidence. That said, you should understand that the prosecution doesn’t have to prove that you actually committed an unlawful act, only that you intended to. Conversely, actually committing an unlawful act would be considered evidence of your intent.  

If the alleged identity theft occurred in the context of a business transaction, you may be able to argue that you had the legal authority to access and use the other person’s personal information.  

If You’ve Been Charged with Identity Theft, Contact the Barnes Firm for Help 

Identity theft is a serious crime that carries severe consequences. In addition to jail time and heavy fines, a felony conviction could ruin your reputation and even make it difficult to get a job. You’re probably feeling overwhelmed, but understand that you do not need to face these charges alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can level the playing field and give you a fighting chance at a fair outcome. 

Identity theft defense attorney John Barnes works with clients in the Knoxville area to make sure they get fair treatment. At Barnes Law, we understand that this isn’t just a case – this is your life. We provide dedicated, skilled legal representation so that you can face your charges with confidence. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation, call us at 865-805-5703 or complete our online contact formtoday. 

The Basics of Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud is considered a white collar crime, and charges are typically brought against doctors and healthcare organizations. Due to the complexity of the healthcare industry, it can be hard to detect and difficult to prove. As a result, allegations can be made even when no fraud occurred or there was no intent to commit fraud. If you’re facing charges for healthcare fraud, it’s imperative that you seek legal counsel to make sure you get the best possible result. 

Knoxville criminal defense attorney John Barnes and former federal prosecutor Ed Holt represent those who have been accused of healthcare fraud to make sure their rights are protected. If you would like a free consultation and case evaluation, call us at 865-805-5703 or send us an emailtoday.

Who You Are Up Against

If you’re facing charges for healthcare fraud, it’s important to understand who the parties are. The “victims” of the alleged healthcare fraud are the insurance providers, which are usually national corporations that serve multiple states. As a result, healthcare fraud cases are typically handled by the federal government and investigated by the Office of the Inspector General from the Department of Health and Human Services, often in concert with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. 

Healthcare fraud isn’t limited to just private insurance companies, however. Charges for healthcare fraud can also be brought on behalf of Medicare and Medicaid, federal insurance programs with specific laws that govern healthcare fraud claims. Most claims for healthcare fraud include fraud against both private insurance providers and either Medicaid, Medicare, or both. 

Common Healthcare Fraud Allegations

Healthcare fraud typically occurs when medical providers or patients abuse the healthcare system for their own financial benefit. Given the complex relationship between healthcare providers and the insurance industry, healthcare fraud can occur in a variety of circumstances and situations. Here are some of the common healthcare fraud allegations that we see:

  • Accepting kickbacks or other financial benefits for patient referrals
  • Falsifying medical records or diagnoses in order to bill for unnecessary tests, surgeries, or other procedures
  • Performing unnecessary procedures or providing unnecessary services for the purpose of increasing billings
  • Billing for procedures or services that were never performed or provided
  • Using a patient’s identity or creating a false identity to bill for services or procedures that were never performed
  • “Upcoding” – billing for services or procedures that are more expensive than what is medically necessary
  • “Unbundling” – billing for each step of a procedure as if each were a separate procedure
  • Billing non-covered services, procedures, or other treatments as covered treatments
  • Waiving patient co-pays or deductibles and then overbilling the insurance provider to recover the loss
  • Billing patients for amounts that were covered by the insurance provider

The practices above are typically committed by people in the healthcare industry, but individuals can also be accused of healthcare fraud in the following scenarios:

  • Providing false information in order to obtain insurance coverage
  • Adding someone to your insurance coverage by providing false information
  • Exaggerating a claim
  • Visiting different doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Using someone else’s insurance

Healthcare fraud is extremely complicated, and it may be difficult to understand what exactly the government is claiming that you did wrong. No matter what the circumstances are surrounding your case, it’s critical that you hire a defense attorney as soon as possible.  

Consequences You May Be Facing

Healthcare fraud is a serious crime, punishable under federal law. If convicted, you may be facing both civil and criminal sanctions. In addition, it’s important to realize that each alleged act of fraud can be charged as a separate offense, meaning that the consequences can quickly add up. 

Healthcare fraud can result in lengthy prison sentences. A conviction for a single charge of Medicare or Medicaid fraud can result in five years in prison. Convictions for other types of healthcare fraud can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If the alleged fraud resulted in bodily injury or death, you may be facing a sentence of twenty years to life in prison.

On top of a prison sentence, you may also be facing harsh fines. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is punishable by fines of up to $250,000 for individual healthcare providers, while healthcare organizations face fines up to $500,000. And again, these fines can be imposed for each count of healthcare fraud. 

In addition to the fines, you may be subject to restitution if you are convicted. This means that you may be ordered to pay back any funds that were obtained as a result of the alleged fraud. 

While no one wants to go to prison, the fines and restitution can also be a significant burden. If you are convicted of healthcare fraud, you may be required to sell your home and other assets in order to pay these amounts. 

Lastly, a conviction for healthcare fraud may require you to serve a probation sentence. While probation is preferable to time in prison, the probation system can be onerous, requiring you to comply with various specific conditions and serve your time under close supervision.  

Defending Yourself Against Healthcare Fraud Charges

If you’ve been charged with healthcare fraud, you can’t afford to lose hope. The prosecution wants you to believe that the evidence is overwhelming and your conviction is a certainty. However, they have to prove the charges against you, and you have the opportunity to challenge the evidence, examine their witnesses, and argue for a fair result. Most importantly, don’t think that by pleading guilty that you’ll definitely get a more favorable outcome. It’s critical to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you formulate the best possible defense. 

Most defenses to healthcare fraud focus on the element of intent. You can’t accidentally commit fraud – you have to have mean to do it – otherwise known as having intent. As a result, you may be successful if you can argue that you lacked the intent to commit fraud. Your attorney can help you assemble the evidence to demonstrate that the alleged fraud was the result poor management or negligent business practices. 

Contact a Tennessee Healthcare Fraud Defense Attorney

Healthcare fraud is a very serious crime with severe consequences that can change your life forever. The law is complicated and virtually impossible for non-lawyers to navigate successfully. If you’ve been charged with healthcare fraud, contact Barnes Law for help. We bring experience, skill, and dedication to our clients to ensure a fair result. Call us at 865-805-5703 or send us an emailin order to schedule a free consultation. 

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is considered to be a white collar crime since it doesn’t involve violence or other elements that we typically associate with crime. Regardless, it is still a crime with serious consequences. As a result, if you’ve been charged with embezzlement, you need a criminal defense attorney who can give you the help you need.

Knoxville criminal defense attorney John Barnes at The Barnes Law Firm represents defendants charged with embezzlement and other crimes. Call us at 865-805-5703 or send us an emailin order to schedule a free consultation with him about your case. 

Embezzlement Defined

Embezzlement is a type of property theft and occurs when someone in a position of trust takes property belonging to someone else for their own benefit. To put it another way, the person who committed the theft had legal access to the property but did not own it. Here are some common examples of situations where embezzlement occurs:

  • A cashier takes money from the cash register to buy new clothes
  • The treasurer on a Board of Directors for a non-profit organization withdraws money from the organization’s operating account to pay for a vacation
  • The office manager for a doctor’s office routinely takes money from the petty cash account to buy lunch 
  • A corporation’s CFO creates false invoices for various services and directs payment to accounts under his sole control for several years

Embezzlement can encompass a wide variety of thefts by different people and can involve simple one-time thefts of some small amount of money to sophisticated schemes and hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

It’s also important to remember that embezzlement can include things other than money – you can be charged with embezzlement for theft of any type of property. 

Potential Penalties of Embezzlement Convictions

Embezzlement is a very serious crime under Tennessee law. You may be facing heavy fines, time in prison, or both. The value of the property alleged to be stolen will determine whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, and will also determine the severity of the potential penalties.  

Value of Property ChargeFinesPrison Sentence
$1,000 or lessClass A MisdemeanorUp to $2,500Up to 11 months, 29 days in jail
$1,000 to $2,500Class E FelonyUp to $3,0001-6 years in prison
$2,500 to $10,000Class D FelonyUp to $5,0002-12 years in prison
$10,000 to $60,000Class C FelonyUp to $10,0003-15 years in prison
$60,000 to $250,000Class B FelonyUp to $25,0008-30 years in prison
$250,000 or moreClass A FelonyUp to $50,00015-60 years in prison

As you can see, the crime becomes more serious and the penalties more severe as the amount stolen increases. However, even a misdemeanor embezzlement charge can result in jail time.

That said, it’s important to emphasize that the consequences of an embezzlement conviction can go beyond prison and fines. Criminal convictions are public record, and felony convictions can harm your reputation in the community. If you hold a professional license, such as attorneys or accountants, you may lose your license if convicted of embezzlement. The conviction can subsequently result in a loss of employment and make it difficult to get another job. 

Defending Against Embezzlement Charges

In order to be convicted of embezzlement, the prosecution has to prove that you intended to steal property that you had access to as a result of being placed in a position of trust. People can be falsely accused of embezzlement as a result of a misunderstanding or in retaliation or other vindictive purpose. 

First, note that you have to have been placed in a position of trust over the embezzled property. For example, you probably can’t charge a janitor with embezzling funds from the petty cash account if he was never given access to the account. While the janitor can still be charged with larceny, the point is that he could not be convicted of embezzlement. 

Generally speaking, most defenses to embezzlement involve showing that you didn’t have the required intent or believed in good faith that you were acting within your authority. Here are some of the ways we can help you establish a defense against embezzlement charges:

  • You were given authority and permission to take the money or property for a legitimate business purpose rather than for your own gain. 
  • You did not embezzle the property – it was lost or put somewhere else. 
  • You did not intend to steal the property – you believed that you were acting within your authority. 
  • Someone else with access to the same property could have stolen it. 

The prosecution has to prove that embezzlement occurred and it was committed by you. Given the complexities of modern businesses, embezzlement charges are an easy accusation to make that are often difficult to prove.

It’s important to remember that acquittal or dismissal of the charges isn’t always possible, and in those cases, a plea bargain may become attractive. A plea bargain may allow you to avoid jail time, fines, or plea to a lesser charge. That said, plea bargains offered by the prosecution can often be skewed in their favor. If you are considering a plea bargain, it’s critical that you work with a criminal defense attorney to make sure the terms of the offer are fair.  

Contact a Knoxville Tennessee Embezzlement Lawyer for Help

Embezzlement charges are serious and can change your life forever. In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction will be on your permanent record and result in irreparable damage to your reputation, your career, and your ability to find a job. However, just because you’ve been charged doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. A skilled criminal defense attorney can defend you against these charges and help you get a fair result. 

If you’re facing embezzlement charges and don’t know where to turn, contact attorney John Barnes at Barnes Law. Mr. Barnes can evaluate your case and help you understand your options. If you would like a free consultation and case evaluation, give us a call at 865-805-5703 or contact us online

A Drug Trafficking Arrest is a Serious Matter

If you are facing drug trafficking charges, it’s imperative that you speak to an attorney right away. Penalties for drug traffickers typically include substantial fines and jail time, and the sentences imposed often start at several years of imprisonment and get stiffer the more drugs are involved. What’s more, trafficking is not a particularly uncommon charge when a person is arrested in connection with drugs. In fiscal year 2017, nearly 67,00 people faced federal drug charges, and, of those individuals, more than 19,000 were chargedwith drug trafficking.

Drug Trafficking Cases Are Often Federal

While drug possession charges that involve small amounts of drugs are generally handled on a state level, trafficking charges involving larger amounts of drugs are often are prosecuted in federal court. The federal government doesn’t play games with drug traffickers and aggressively pursues harsh legal consequences. For this reason, if you are facing drug trafficking charges, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can.

When it comes to trafficking and distribution charges, the federal government seeks to impose stiff penalties. These penaltiesapply to the selling, transportation, and importation of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs. All of these trafficking charges are felonies, and the government doesn’t even have to prove that you intended to sell the drugs. The trafficking charge is based on the amount of the drugs in your possession, but the amount that triggers a trafficking charge rather than a possession charge depends upon the drug in questions.

Drug Trafficking Charges Carry Significant Penalties

People charged with drug trafficking are quite likely to face prison time. According to the United States Sentencing Commission:

  • The vast majority of drug trafficking offenders – 95.6% – get at least some prison time
  • Roughly three-fourths of those charged with drug trafficking receive sentences either within the sentencing guidelines, at about 39%, or below the recommended sentence range, at nearly, 24% 
  • The average sentence for those convicted of drug trafficking, the average sentence was roughly 70 months. 

The sentences for drug trafficking can be quite substantial. Getting caught with even a relatively small amount of drugs subject to trafficking charges can result in significant legal penalties. Some of these minimum first-offense sentences include the following:

  • For possession of cocaine in the amount of 500 grams to 4,999 grams (or various other drugs in different amounts), the minimum sentence is no less than five years up to 40 years. Fines can be $2 million or more
  • For a second-offense, defendants can be sentenced to no less than ten years and no more than life in prison.
  • For larger amounts of drugs subject to trafficking laws, a first-offense charge can result in a sentence of 10 years or more, while a second offense can lead the prison time of at least 20 years, and up to life imprisonment. Fines could range from $4 million to $10 million.

Defenses to Allegations of Drug Trafficking

If you are facing drug trafficking charges, it’s easy to feel like there is nowhere to turn. If the authorities found you with a sufficient amount of drugs to justify a trafficking case, it’s hard to see how a judge or a jury may even begin to think that the drugs were not yours or that you did not know they were in your possession.

Fortunately, in many cases, there are legal defenses available that may keep certain evidence out of court or case enough doubt on the prosecution’s case to obtain an acquittal at trial. For this reason, if you have been accused of drug trafficking, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you possibly can. Some of the defenses that an attorney may be able to raise include:

  • Alleging a 4thAmendment Violation – The 4thAmendment of the United States Constitution prohibits police from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures of people and property. If they violated your 4thAmendment rights during a traffic stop, a search of your home, or an encounter on the street, any evidence they gathered could potentially be suppressed, meaning that the prosecution could not use it against you. In many drug cases, the suppression of evidence forces the prosecution to drop its case completely.
  • Introducing Evidence that Indicates that You Were Not Aware that You Possessed the Drugs –In order to be guilty of trafficking, you must have knowingly possessed the drugs of which you are accused of trafficking. So if someone planted the drugs in your car, home or on your person, you are not guilty of drug trafficking. Of course, directly establishing your mental state at the time of your arrest is impossible, as the court cannot read your mind. For this reason, casting doubt regarding your knowledge of the drugs must be done through circumstantial evidence. Examples of circumstantial evidence that could be used to cast such doubt include the fact that you were driving someone else’s car, a clean drug test, or the fact that a person who is a known drug dealer or trafficker had access to the place the drugs were found shortly before your arrest.

In some cases, there are no defenses available, and a defendant’s best bet is to negotiate a plea bargain. If you find yourself in this position, it is imperative that you retain an experienced defense attorney that knows how to work with prosecutors. A lawyer will be able to spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case or ways in which you may be able to leverage insider knowledge of a drug distribution organization that could significantly mitigate the consequences you are facing.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Knoxville Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney Today

If you have been arrested for drug trafficking, it’s important that you retain an attorney as soon as you can. The sooner a lawyer is representing you, the sooner your rights will be protected. To schedule a free consultation with Knoxville criminal defense lawyer John Barnes, call our office today at 865-805-5703 or contact us online.

Is Drug Court an Option for You?

Tennessee offers drug offenders an option that is not available in most states. This option, commonly known as “drug court,” gives drug offenders who have drug abuse issues the option of avoiding a jail sentence. Formally known as Recovery Court, drug court gives drug offenders who are facing charges of non-violent drug offences the chance to enter a substance abuse program instead of going to jail. Recovery Courts are special courts set up to handle cases of drug offenders through drug testing, treatment, and sanctions, as well as incentives, rather than with jail time. The expectations of participants are high, but the program gives participants a chance to come out of the program drug-free and without a criminal drug conviction.

It’s important to understand that there is no guarantee that anyone gets into the drug court program, and the court has complete discretion as to who to let in. For this reason, if you would like a chance to avoid a criminal conviction by going through drug court, it’s critical that you retain an attorney to represent your rights. Even something as simple as the judge not liking your demeanor in court could keep you out of the program and leave you with a completely avoidable criminal conviction on your record. Fortunately, however, an attorney can guide you through the process and maximize your chances of getting into drug court. To schedule a free case evaluation with a Knoxville drug offense attorney, call Barnes Law today at 865-805-5703 or send us an email through our online contact form.

A Drug Offense Conviction Can Affect Your Life for Years

If you are facing a drug charge, you need to do everything you possibly can to avoid a conviction. To understand why, it’s important to understand that the consequences of a drug offense conviction can go far beyond those ordered by the court, and they can last for much, much longer. If you have drug conviction on your record, that information is available to the general public as well as government agencies who make decisions about your rights or privileges that could have a substantial impact on your rights. In this way, a drug conviction could affect you long after your court-imposed sentence has come to a close. Some of the specific areas in which a drug conviction could have an impact include the following:

  • Employment –Most employers conduct background checks on applicants, and a drug conviction is almost certainly going to appear in even the most superficial of searches. Employers are often hesitant to hire anyone that has a history of drug use, and you may actually be completely disqualified from certain positions if you have a drug conviction on your record. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are safe if you have a good job already – because Tennessee is at-will employment state, your employer could let you go because a drug conviction – or even an arrest.
  • Professional Licensure – If you are planning on going into a regulated profession like law, medicine, nursing, accounting, or engineering, a drug conviction on your record could frustrate your ability to obtain a professional license. In addition, as is the case with employment, a drug conviction could affect a professional license you already have.
  • Housing –Landlords have an interest in preventing illegal activity at their properties, and often conduct background checks on prospective tenants as a result. As result, if you have a drug conviction on your record, it may make it difficult to rent the apartment that you want.
  • Education –Schools are starting to inquire about applicants’ criminal histories, and a drug conviction may not make you an attractive candidate for admission. Furthermore, most colleges and universities have codes of conduct that prohibit students from using illegal drugs or otherwise engaging in illegal activity, and a drug conviction could result in your school imposing significant sanctions. These sanctions could include probation, the loss of a financial aid package or scholarship, suspension, or even dismissal from the institutional altogether.

Tennessee Drug Court Eligibility

To be eligible for “drug court” in the Knoxville area, you must be:

  • An adult convicted in Knox County
  • A nonviolent felony offender charged with certain felonies
  • Willing to participate in the Recovery Court program

There also are conditions that could render you ineligible, including:

  • If you have already been convicted of a violent offense
  • You carried, possessed, or used a firearm or dangerous weapon during the crime for which you were arrested
  • The crime with which you were charged involved the death of or significant injury any person, or the use of force against another person
  • Have one or more felony convictions involving the use of force against another person
  • You refuse to cooperate with the admission screening procedures for the program

If you are eligible for the program, you will be required to undergo a treatment program that is intended you put drug use behind you. If you are able to complete the program, though, you can not only avoid jail time but you also can find a drug-free life, as a significant partof the program is rehabilitation. In fact, it has been found that the program:

  • Reduces drug use among participants through frequent drug testing
  • Results in fewer drug crimes by people participating in the program
  • Reduces tax-payer costs by cutting jail time for program participants
  • Gives program participants intensive supervision and monitoring
  • Gives program participants alternatives to lifestyles involving drugs by giving them supervision, treatment, education, and counseling.

If You Have Been Arrested on Drug-Related Charges in the Knoxville Area, You Should Consult with Criminal Defense Attorney John Barnes at Barnes Law

If you have been arrested on drug charges, you have options to avoid having a drug-charge conviction on your record.  Tennessee offers options a program that can keep you out of jail. To find out whether you can enter such a program, contact Barnes Law. He has the experience to help you through your situation. For a consultation, contact Barnes Law at 865-805-5703 or through the firm’s online contact form.

What Constitutes A Field Sobriety Test In Knoxville, Tennessee?

When a Tennessee law officer pulls you over for being under suspicion of a DUI, you may be asked by the officer to get out of your vehicle and perform a sequence of field sobriety tests (FST).  These specific tests are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Due to the standardization of these tests, they should be the same three tests no matter where or who pulls you over.  Furthermore, it is expected that these three tests will be given the exact same way.  

Do you have to submit yourself to a field sobriety test?  The answer is no, and you do not have to.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has estimated that law enforcement officials detect impairment incorrectly in nine out of every one hundred field sobriety tests.  Field Sobriety Tests are given solely to “prove” whether or not you are too impaired to operate your vehicle.  The tests are only there to serve the interest of the arresting officer that pulled you over.  Passing all the tests will not necessarily put you in the clear.  The officer can still choose to charge you with a DUI in Tennessee even if you pass all the FST.  The officer that stopped you is not obligated to let you know that you are allowed to refuse the tests.  Usually, it is in your best interests to politely decline to take the FST.

If you do decide to comply and take the field sobriety tests, it is helpful to understand how they work.  The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is the test where the officer will shine a light in your eye or will ask you to follow his pen or their finger as it is moved from side to side.  They will be looking to see if your eyes move smoothly from side to side, not jerky or jumping.  This is supposed to be the most accurate of the FST because movement from your eyeballs is involuntary.  However, there are at least thirty-eight other health conditions that one could suffer from that would make their eyes nystagmus.  These range from inner ear issues to glaucoma or even excess caffeine intake.   The next test is the Walk and Turn (WAT).  This field sobriety test is where the officer will have you walk a straight line, heel to toe for nine steps.  Then they will ask you to turn and walk it back to them.  This is supposed to show your balance and your ability to multi-task.  If this test is not done on solid, dry, flat ground, then it may not be valid.  Also if the officer did not give you an actual straight line to go by, then the test may not be accurate.  Lastly, the officer will ask you to do the One Leg Stand (OLS) test.  This tends to be the most inaccurate of all the field sobriety tests.  You will be asked to stand and hold one foot up off the ground (at least six inches) in front of you for a total of thirty seconds.  This test too is to show balance, like the WAT.  People with back or leg problems tend to have trouble even sober performing this field sobriety test.  Each of these tests has multiple signs that the police officers are trained to look out for, to indicate impairment of the driver.  If the officer sees these signs and has a breath test, they will use these test factors as evidence that you are too impaired to drive.  This can be due to drinking or impairment under drugs.  You will be charged with a DUI, and if you are convicted, you will lose your license and be forced to pay substantial money in the form of fines.  Plus your daily routine may have to change drastically if you are without personal transportation.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at our firm is; Can I beat a field sobriety test?  We explain to all our clients that every person and every case is different.  Just as kids perform differently on their school exams, someone pulled over may respond differently than the next on the field sobriety tests.  Also, it is important to note that no two officers are exactly alike.  One may administer the FST different than that of the next.  Field Sobriety Tests to us are a very subjective component to a DUI case.  Field sobriety tests are not infallible, and under some circumstances, they may not even be admissible.  It is possible to build a defense on behalf of a client who “failed” the field sobriety tests during a DUI stop in the state of Tennessee.

Our skilled Knoxville DUI attorneys have many years of experience building defenses as such to help the general public.  We have a great understanding of how the local and state law enforcement administers these field sobriety tests, and we know how to look for the weak spots.  Our law office stays up to date on the ever-changing DUI laws in Tennessee.  We work diligently and aggressively to uphold your rights and defend you from your DUI charge.  Our firm takes pride in helping you and your family rest easy knowing that your best interests are also our shared interests.  We realize not only the financial burden that a DUI can place on you and your family, but we also understand that your freedom is at stake.

At Barnes Law in Knoxville, Tennessee our legal team is awaiting your call to discuss your recent DUI charge.  Our attorneys know the Tennessee DUI laws and can build a strong defense on your behalf.  A skilled DUI attorney at the Barnes Law Firm will guide you through the complicated legal process and fight to have your charges dropped. Call our office today for a free consultation.

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Common Misconceptions About Being Charged with a DUI in Tennessee

Most people when they first begin to look for DUI lawyers and information on the subject are emotionally distraught.  They are confused, angry, embarrassed, and even sometimes feel hopeless.  These emotions are to be expected, and they merely mean that you are like most others facing a pending DUI charge in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Going through the actual act of being arrested is a terrible experience to handle.  Remember that all these feelings are normal, and fearing the unknown is natural following an arrest.  Fortunately, there are attorneys available to talk to that understand all the legal jargon and are non-judgmental.  Our attorneys at Barnes Law are here to help you and your loved ones deal with your DUI charge.  We are here to not only help guide you through the complicated legal process of a DUI case, but also to help alleviate some of your worries and anxiety that come along with these type of situations.

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a DUI or DWI in the state of Tennessee, then it is imperative to understand the possible ways to fight your charges.  Driving under the influence charges in the state of Tennessee are grave matters, and you need to react promptly following your arrest to give you the best chance to beat your DUI case.  If you were recently arrested for a DUI charge and it is your first offense, there are some preventative steps that you can take to avoid the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and the high price tag that goes along with it.

A common misconception about being charged with a DUI in Tennessee is that you are automatically found guilty if you fail the breathalyzer or the roadside sobriety field tests.  There is always room for human error when operating breathalyzer machines and giving field sobriety tests.  There have been multiple cases fought where the officer’s error or mistakes have been revealed, and the DUI cases have been dismissed.  This is why having a skilled Tennessee DUI attorney by your side throughout the legal process is valuable to get the results you need.  At Barnes Law Firm in Knoxville, we have experience in dealing with all different DUI case situations and can help you fight for your rights when burdened with a DUI charge.

By receiving a DUI/DWI charge in the state of Tennessee, it is very likely that you had to provide a urine or blood sample in addition to the breathalyzer test.  The police may have taken you to a hospital to get your blood or urine test.  No matter how disappointed or discouraged you are in the moments closely following your DUI charge, it is important to have your arrest details examined by a professional Tennessee DUI attorney.  By gaining legal counsel from a DUI attorney, you are equipping yourself with the best possible way to fight for dropped charges and help you find the advantages within your particular case.  Our competent DUI attorneys are known for finding mistakes and using tried defense strategies to help fight your DUI charges.  Having one of our DUI attorneys look over your case as soon as possible after your arrest can only assist you in maximizing your chances to beat the case.  Our attorneys are familiar with all the tests officers administer during a DUI stop, and they know what to look out for in DUI cases.

While there are common indicators that can be relative to alcohol impairment, this may not always be the case for every person who gets charged with a DUI in Tennessee.  For instance, an unusual driving pattern could be caused by a mechanical defect or dangerous road conditions.  The odor of alcohol is usually consistent with its recent consumption, but that does not always mean proof of impairment.  Just because someone has had drinks does not necessarily mean that they are impaired.  Having bloodshot or glassy eyes can be an indicator of being over-tired or fatigued, but there are many other reasons one’s eyes may look this way.  Some people have glassy eyes from being around a smoky environment.  Dental or medical issues may be the cause of slurred speech, not necessarily impairment.  When doing roadside tests, a lack a balance could be from road conditions, footwear, or medical conditions.  Sometimes being unable to locate your documents such as registration for the officer is just out of nervousness.  Some individuals react nervously when speaking to law officers no matter what the circumstances are.  Remember that all hope is not lost just because of the DUI charge you received.  If you are charged with a DUI, it is very important to gain the services of a skilled Tennessee DUI attorney to help you find all the possible ways to get your case dismissed.  Our Knoxville DUI attorneys will let you know what to expect and will provide you personalized legal service for your specific DUI case.

Often mistakes are made in DUI cases due to human error on the arresting officers or intake’s part.  Proving these type of elements can be very difficult especially in a Tennessee DUI court.  If you or your attorney can show the mistakes made by the arresting officers at any point in your DUI case, then you have significantly increased your chances of winning your DUI case.  Our attorneys have experience in exposing the common mistakes made by arresting officers.  Usually, these mistakes or errors are made by the officer in his documentation or the collecting of blood, breath, or urine samples.  Sometimes in DUI arrests, the field sobriety tests are not administered properly.  Once one of our skilled Barnes Law attorneys has reviewed all the details of your particular DUI case, they will discuss defense options and strategies with you to help you fight to beat your DUI charge.  Tennessee DUI laws are always changing, making it even more necessary for you to obtain reliable legal counsel from an experienced DUI attorney. 

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How Do I Beat DUI Charges in Knoxville, Tennessee?

Far too many people make the mistake of accepting a plea bargain when they don’t have to while facing Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI charges. There are cases where this will give you the best outcome, but if you can successfully fight the charges, then you absolutely should. This is because the impact of a DUI conviction on your life is significant. It can prevent you from being able to travel to other countries, from being able to keep your job or pursue other career paths, and even from being able to maintain auto insurance coverage on your vehicle. It is important to have a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI attorney look at your case and explore your options before you give in to these consequences. Barnes Law knows how to handle a DUI case and how to fight the charges to protect your future. Following are some of the things we think you need to be aware of when it comes to fighting DUI charges.

The Prosecution Has the Burden of Proof for a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Case

It’s essential for anyone who is facing a DUI charge in Knoxville, Tennessee, to fully understand that if the case goes to trial, the prosecution has to be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They have the burden of proof. It is not up to you to prove that you were not driving under the influence. It is up to them to prove that you were. This means that their evidence has to be infallible and inarguable. If there is any reasonable doubt, you should not be convicted. Thus, your Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI attorney must look at establishing reasonable doubt to poke holes in the evidence that the prosecution will present in their effort to prove that you are truly guilty of a DUI.  If there are any issues with the reliability of the tests used to measure your level of intoxication, or if there are any issues with the arrest and legal procedures during that process, then you may have a solid leg to stand on when it comes to fighting a DUI charge.

Could the Results of Your Blood Alcohol Test Be Thrown Out as Evidence?

When you have a blood alcohol content reading on file, it can seem like the situation is completely hopeless.

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If you are fighting a DUI, don’t fight it alone. Contact Barnes Law today!

However, there are many situations where this evidence can be questioned and even thrown out. Imagine if the strongest evidence against you is determined to be unreliable obtained and not allowed to be presented at trial. It suddenly makes you see your case in a whole new light. If the BAC reading cannot be relied upon for any reason, then it can’t be used. Then, what exactly do they have against you to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence? Common examples of why a BAC reading might be thrown out include:

  • The machine was not properly calibrated.
  • The machine was not properly maintained.
  • The test was not properly administered.

Could the Procedures of the Arresting Officer Keep You From Being Convicted on DUI Charges?

Many people are also unaware of the fact that the arresting officer has to follow certain procedures in order for the arrest to be legal. Police are just as prone to slip ups and mistakes as others are, so it is entirely possible that the officer who arrested you did so without just cause or without following the appropriate procedures. If this happens, then reasonable doubt could be easy to establish.

A Qualified Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Attorney Can Help You Fight the Charges

Whenever someone is charged with a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee, it is common for the accused to think that they are without options and without hope. They may think that cooperating with the police and/or admitting guilt is their best opportunity to get out of the charges with the least severe consequences. The reality is that you can’t know that for sure until you talk to a qualified, skilled, and experienced attorney. Not every attorney will have the time or expertise that your case requires, so you want to choose the right lawyer or law firm to handle your case. Seek a free consultation with the at Barnes Law to find out how we can help you to avoid the consequences of DUI charges by fighting. If it is truly in your best interest to plead guilty, then at least you will know that all alternatives have been investigated, pursued, and considered before doing so. There is a very good chance that your attorney can get evidence thrown out, charges dropped, or other intervention options obtained.

Remember that You are Not Guilty of a DUI Just Because You Were Arrested

Being charged with a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a stressful and overwhelming situation that you don’t want to face alone. From the moment of your arrest, you can expect to feel anxious and even hopeless about your future. You may be very tempted to give up, give in, and cooperate with the police and the prosecution to achieve their goals instead of your own. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you are going to be found guilty because you were arrested, and never think that helping the prosecution is going to help you. In most cases, this is not so. The prosecution may lead you to believe that your cooperation is the only thing that will save you, but the reality is that you could end up just helping them to put you away and ruin your future. All the while, simply consulting with a skilled Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI attorney could be the answer you’re looking. Call Barnes Law to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your rights and your options with DUI charges.

 

 

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What is the Impact of a DUI Charge on Various Aspects of Your Life in Knoxville, TN?

When someone is facing a DUI charge in Knoxville, Tennessee, they are frequently under a lot of stress concerning the immediate impact. The immediate impact of the charge on your job, your finances, your family, and your social life are readily apparent. Still, a lot of people don’t realize the full extent of the impact of a DUI charge on various aspects of their lives. A DUI could end up on your criminal record. It could cause you to lose your driver’s license and/or end up with an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. It could result in high fines, the necessity of taking DUI classes, and higher insurance rates or lost coverage. It could also prevent you from being able to start a new career, continue in your present career, join the military, or even travel to another country. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the different ways that a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee, could change your life.

Your Criminal Record and Career Opportunities with a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Charge

When you get a DUI conviction in Knoxville, Tennessee, you are going to have this on your criminal record, which could prevent you from achieving your future career goals. Most companies perform background checks on potential new hires, and this is where your criminal record is going to be particularly relevant to your life and goals. There are some jobs that you will no longer be eligible for with a DUI on your record. Following are just a few examples of occupations where you may not be able to be employed if you have ever been convicted of a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee:

  • Police Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Teacher
  • Nurse
  • CDL Commercial Vehicle Driver
  • Government Employee

Your Dreams of Travel and Vacation Plans with Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Charge

One frequently overlooked consequence of a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee, is the impact on your dreams of travel and your vacation plans. Many people love to travel or hope to travel later in life. When facing a DUI charge, however, it may never even occur to them that their dreams of international travel are on the line. If you plan to immigrate to another country, then this too could be off limits with a DUI conviction. Some countries will not allow anyone with any kind of criminal record to enter. Following are the countries with the strictest policies prohibiting persons with a criminal record from entering:

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  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Countries in the European Union

Your Plans to Serve in the Military with a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Charge

If you have any plans to serve in the Army, the Marines, the Navy, or the US Air Force, these plans could quickly be derailed by a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI conviction. If you are in the military at the time of your arrest, then the details of your arrest must be closely inspected by a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI attorney to assess the impact of the charges on your military career. Many people don’t realize that their military careers will be affected by a DUI that happens while on leave or between deployments. Individuals who are convicted of such crimes are often deemed unfit to handle leadership and unfit to represent the armed services of the United States. Even if it is your first offense, it could change the trajectory of your military career or completely end it.

Your Auto Insurance Rates with a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI Charge

If you are lucky, you have no plans to travel or join the military, and if your career is not affected by a DUI conviction, then you will still have the long-term consequence of a DUI on your auto insurance rates. Having a DUI conviction on your record will cause your auto insurance policy rates to be raised significantly, even if it is your first DUI. If you have multiple DUI convictions, then the effect on your auto insurance rates will be even worse, assuming you are able to get your license back. For many people in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is almost no point in having a license or a vehicle, because they can’t afford the auto insurance rates that they must pay for in order to drive legally. Some auto insurance companies will make you pay a much higher rate for a period of five years, without further DUI charges, before lowering the rate again. In the meantime, your rates could be thousands of dollars more each year for the same auto insurance coverage, because you are a high-risk driver.

Another important thing to be aware of with a DUI charge is that if you caused any damages in an auto accident with another driver, your auto insurance policy may refuse to cover those damages. You could end up facing the expenses of paying the damages caused to other vehicles in a DUI auto accident yourself. Adding up all of the potential consequences of a DUI conviction starts to get expensive.

Contact Barnes Law to Protect Yourself from the Impact of a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI

Because the impact of a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI conviction can be so costly and life-altering, it is important to consult with a skilled DUI attorney, like those at Barnes Law. There are cases where it is in your best interests to accept a plea deal, but if you want to avoid the impact of a DUI conviction, then this may not be your best option. You need to protect your career, your future plans, and your ability to stay mobile on the road. Contact Barnes Law to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your options for fighting a DUI charge in Knoxville, Tennessee.