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What are the Collateral Consequences of a Drug Conviction?

We all know the basics. A drug conviction, whether for possession, distribution, or trafficking, can mean serious prison time. Offenders familiar with the system know a judge can also impose certain financial penalties, but do you know about the collateral consequences of a drug conviction? Are you prepared to lose your right to vote, hunt, or travel? Are you an immigrant prepared for deportation? You must consider all of these factors in deciding how to proceed in a drug offense case in Tennessee’s federal or state courts.

Not every criminal defense attorney fully explains the collateral consequences of a drug conviction. Before deciding whether to enter a guilty plea or proceed to trial, you’re entitled to all the facts. Knoxville defense attorney John Barnes’ priority is ensuring you and your family have all the facts necessary to make an informed decision regarding your drug charges. To schedule your free drug defense consultation, call his Knoxville office today at (865) 805-5703 or contact him online.

General Consequences of a Drug Conviction

Penalties for drug offenses differ based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Jurisdiction, whether federal or state
  • The substance involved
  • The weight of the substance
  • Distributive intent
  • Aggravating factors
  • Criminal history
  • Mitigating factors such as cooperation

Major drug convictions (felonies) generally include a prison sentence, probation, and certain administrative fines. Restitution, though mandatory in many criminal cases, isn’t typically ordered in drug offense cases. Restitution is defined as the compensation paid to the victim of a criminal offense for direct losses. This may include compensation for funeral costs, medical bills, rehabilitation, and property damage. However, drug offenders charged with lacing their substances and purveyors of synthetic cannabinoids, such as K2 or Spice, may have to pay medical restitution.

Minor offenses (misdemeanors and possession infractions) may result in probation, court-ordered counseling, small fines, and/or court-ordered rehabilitation. First-time minor offenders seldom face prison time for a non-violate drug offense; however, they still face the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

The Additional Legal Consequences of a Drug Conviction   

The seriousness of these collateral consequences often depends on whether you’ve been convicted of a felony offense. These offenses are punishable by more than a year in prison, but you don’t have to be sentenced to more than a year to become a convicted felon. In Tennessee and the United States, a felony conviction may carry the following additional consequences:

  • Loss of voting rights in all major elections
  • Inability to own a firearm, fireworks, or hunting gear
  • Inability to obtain a visa to travel overseas
  • Inability to travel to Canada or Mexico
  • Inability to obtain United States citizenship
  • Deportation and severe immigration consequences for non-citizens,
  • Failure to qualify for certain federal or state employment
  • Inclusion on the Tennessee Drug Offender Registry

Importantly, these unexpected consequences may also include the seizure of assets, fines, costs, and restitution. Any assets the government claims are linked to illegally obtained money may be seized, sometimes even if it’s a family asset. If you bought your car, home, or started a college fund for your child with money tainted by drug trafficking activities, these items are subject to seizure and sale. Your bank accounts may be frozen, and any attempt to transfer this money may implicate your family members. Even your family is subject to seizure orders if they’ve knowingly benefited for the fruits of an illegal enterprise.

Collateral & Unexpected Consequences of a Drug Conviction

The legal (de jure) consequences of a drug conviction are found in certain federal and state laws, regulations, and sentencing guidelines. However, the real (de facto) consequences of a drug conviction can’t be found in a book. Too many drug offenders accept or reject plea deals without understanding the true consequences of their actions, and it’s not always their fault. Court-appointed attorneys are overburdened and underpaid and seldom have the time necessary to explain the collateral consequences of your conviction. This can perpetuate frustration with the court system and discourage necessary lifestyle changes.

At Barnes Law, we neither abandon nor forget our clients. We’ve seen our clients struggle with the following unanticipated consequences of a drug conviction, and we will use our knowledge to ensure you’re making an informed decision about your drug charges. Think about how the following collateral consequences of a drug conviction may affect your life:  

  • Loss of a driving and/or hunting license – Will you lose your job? Your hobbies? Your ability to see your children?
  • Automatic disqualification from jobs
  • Extreme difficulty gaining entry into certain professions such as medicine and law
  • Difficulty with college admission and financial aid
  • Inability to leave the state during probation – Do you have out-of-state family you often visit? What if a job opportunity arises out of state?
  • Disqualification from certain state aid programs
  • Inability to join certain websites – you may be blocked from social media or dating websites as you rebuild your life
  • Rejection from certain private living facilities or even homes located near schools.

These difficulties can perpetuate the criminal cycle by preventing and discouraging offenders from seeking a different path. The mental, emotional, and psychological stigma associated with a drug conviction can also take its toll.

Fortunately, not every drug case results in a conviction. If the police violated your rights during your arrest or while they were investigating your case, it could result in all of the evidence they gathered against you being excluded from court. Similarly, there may be additional facts that you could allege that indicate that the drugs that were discovered were not actually in your possession, or if they were, that you were unaware of them. To determine whether these or any other defenses apply in your case, call Barnes Law to speak to an attorney today.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today At Barnes Law, we can help you understand all the consequences associated with your drug case. In addition, we’re committed to obtaining the best possible outcome in each case we handle and will not hesitate to case to trial if it’s in your best interest.

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Common Defenses to Serious Drug Charges

If you have been accused of the possession, distribution, manufacture, or cultivation of illegal drugs, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have any options. Typically, drug arrests occur after a search of a person’s person, vehicle, or home or after a lengthy investigation involving weeks or months or surveillance, so if you’ve been arrested, it’s completely understandable if you feel like a conviction is inevitable. Fortunately, this is often not the case.

It’s important to be aware of the fact that there are often legal defenses that apply to serious drug cases that may not be apparent to you unless you’ve had significant legal training and experience. It’s for this reason, if you’ve been arrested for any offense related to drugs, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. If you don’t, it’s possible that you will be convicted in spite of a violation of your constitutional rights.

If you are convicted of a drug crime, you could be facing serious consequences, including the following:

  • Probation
  • Significant fines
  • Mandatory drug testing
  • Community service
  • Jail time
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Problems renting an apartment
  • The loss or denial of a professional license

Some of the potential defense that may apply to your drug case are discussed below. For more information and to discuss the specifics of your case with a Knoxville criminal defense attorney, call Barnes Law today at 865-805-5703 or send us an email through our online contact form.

4th Amendment Violations

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution places significant limits on the circumstances under which the police can search or seize a person or his or her property. Typically, the police need a warrant to conduct a search or seize a person or property unless an exception applies. When the police violate this rule, it can result in any evidence they gathered be suppressed, meaning that it cannot be used in court. In cases where the discovery of drugs or other contraband was the result of an illegal search, the prosecution is typically forced to drop the case due to a lack of admissible evidence. Importantly, 4th Amendment law is extremely complicated and violations can be difficult to spot, so it’s important for anyone that’s been arrested after a search or seizure to have the facts of their case reviewed by an experienced attorney.

Lack of Knowledge of Possession

Typically, laws that prohibit the possession of certain drugs require that the accused have actual knowledge of the fact that he or she was in possession of the drugs in question. How could you be in possession of something and not know it? For example, your friend could surreptitiously place drugs into your glove box and accidentally leave them there, or someone could slip a pill bottle into your purse or backpack without you knowing it. While these examples seem farfetched, these situations and others like them happen more often than one may expect, and many people are shocked to find themselves accused of possessing illegal drugs.

Fortunately, there are ways that an experienced attorney can cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertion that you were aware of the drugs of which you are accused of possessing. As it’s impossible to read a person’s mind, a lack of knowledge can only be inferred from the circumstances. Some of the circumstances that could lead a judge or jury to doubt the prosecution’s assertion that you were aware of the drugs include the fact that you do not have a history of drug use, a lack of evidence that you had recently used the substance in question (i.e., a clean drug test), or strong evidence that the drugs belonged to someone else who had access to the place where the drugs were found. In order to determine whether a lack of knowledge defense would be viable in your case, you should discuss the facts of your case with an experienced attorney.

Entrapment

While the police are allowed to conduct sting operations, they’re not allowed to induce people to commit crimes that they would not have otherwise committed. When this occurs, defendants may be able to assert the defense of entrapment, which can result in the dismissal of the case or an acquittal. Whether entrapment occurred in a given case is often an extremely complicated legal question, so if you believe you were induced in any way to commit a crime, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.

In Some Cases, Negotiating a Favorable Plea Bargain is the Best Option

Sometimes, there are no viable legal defenses to raise in a drug case. This is not to say that an attorney cannot help you obtain a better result to your case than you would obtain on your own, however. A lawyer familiar with Tennessee criminal defense practice can often negotiate a favorable plea bargain that can significantly reduce the consequences that you are facing. In addition, an attorney can advise you to take certain steps prior to your first court appearance that can increase your chances of a lenient sentence. For example, drug offenders who voluntarily enter a rehabilitation program and have evidence of abstinence from using drugs or alcohol are often viewed much more favorably by prosecutors and the court. In fact, a lawyer may even be able to get you into drug court, a diversionary program that, if completed successfully, could result in court completely dismissing the case against you.

Call Barnes Law Today to Speak with a Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney If you have been accused of a drug crime in Tennessee, you are facing serious consequences that could have an impact on your life for decades to come. John Barnes is an experienced criminal defense attorney who is committed to helping his clients protect their legal rights and move on with their lives with as little legal consequence as possible. In some cases, this means fighting for an acquittal at trial, while in others, it means negotiating the most favorable plea bargain possible, and John is both an aggressive litigator and a skilled negotiator.

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Can Plea Bargains have Immigration Consequences?

A plea bargain can often reduce your charges, reduce your sentence, or result in probation instead of time in jail in exchange for a guilty plea. When you hear a favorable offer from a prosecutor, you may rush to enter your guilty plea to get your case over with. However, before you plead guilty to any offense, it is critical to discuss all of the possible implications with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. This is because a guilty plea can have many lasting effects of which you may not be aware, including drastic immigration consequences.

Any non-citizen can face serious consequences upon a guilty plea, even if you have a green card. Call Barnes Law to discuss your rights and options with a skilled criminal defense lawyer right away. If you already pled guilty without realizing the possible consequences, call to discuss whether you have options to prevent deportation.

Certain Convictions Can Lead to Deportation

Under the Immigrant and Nationality Act (INA), convictions of certain crimes are justification to initiate deportation proceedings. Such offenses include:

  • Aggravated felonies – The INA defines which felonies are considered to be “aggravated” for the purposes of deportation, including sexual abuse of a child, rape, drug trafficking, and homicide.
  • Crimes of moral turpitude – Unlike aggravated felonies, the INA does not provide a specific list of offenses that may qualify as crimes of moral turpitude, which means the offense violates the standards of the community. Such offenses can include violent or sexual offenses against other people, fraud crimes, or crimes against property such as theft.
  • Drug crimes – Both misdemeanor and felony drug-related convictions can result in deportation under the INA.
  • Domestic violence – Violent offenses against a spouse, partner, or child can lead to deportation, even for a first offense.
  • Weapons crimes – The INA allows for deportation for convictions of illegal possession, sales, or use of a firearm.

A conviction does not only refer to being found guilty at trial, as a conviction can result from a guilty plea, as well. This can be the case even if you agree to a plea bargain that does not result in a mark on your criminal record. If you undergo a period of probation or are subject to any penalties for a guilty plea, it can count as a conviction for immigration purposes. On the other hand, a pre-plea diversion program that does not require you to formally enter a guilty plea does not always count as a conviction, so this is an option your defense attorney should always explore. They should carefully examine whether a deferred adjudication or diversion program may have immigration consequences based on the type of program.

You should also realize that having a criminal record expunged at a later date will not eliminate immigration consequences. Immigration forms require you to disclose all convictions, including those that were expunged. However, if a court vacates your conviction “for cause” due to constitutional violations or a similar reason, you may be able to halt deportation proceedings stemming from that conviction.

Your Attorney Should Inform You of Possible Immigration Consequences

When you decide to plead guilty, your criminal defense attorney should make sure that you understand all possible consequences of your guilty plea, including collateral consequences. In 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that defense lawyers must inform non-citizen defendants of the potential immigration consequences and that a failure to do so constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel.

Ineffective assistance of counsel violates your Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and it is possible to have your guilty plea vacated due to this constitutional violation. If your lawyer failed to discuss immigration consequences with you when you were deciding to accept a plea bargain, you can be surprised when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers take you into custody and start deportation proceedings. In this situation, you should always discuss whether you may get your conviction set aside to halt proceedings while your attorney defends against your charges at trial. However, you only have a small window of time – until you are finished with appeals – before your case is closed and cannot be reopened to claim ineffective assistance of counsel. After learning about deportation proceedings, you should never wait to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to learn about your options.

If you cannot get your guilty plea set aside, you may still be eligible for a pardon of your criminal conviction. A defense attorney can advise you whether a pardon may be an option and can help you through that process. While seeking a pardon from the governor or the U.S. President can be complex and can take a long time, a successful pardon can help you prevent deportation.

Avoiding Convictions Whenever Possible

The best way to avoid deportation as a result of a criminal conviction is to avoid any convictions whenever you can. If you get charged with a crime, you need the assistance of a highly skilled defense attorney who knows how to fight to get your charges dropped or who will aggressively defend against charges at trial. While a plea bargain is a common resolution for criminal cases, it is not the only possible resolution, and immigration consequences are not always inevitable.

Our attorney at Barnes Law will investigate the circumstances of your arrest, examine the evidence against you, and develop the strongest defense strategy possible in your case. In the event the prosecutor offers a plea bargain, we will help you carefully weigh your options and advise you of all possible consequences.

Do Not Wait to Discuss Your Situation with Our Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney The Barnes Law Firm represents criminal defendants at every stage of the criminal process. We can help clients from the moment of an arrest, during the case, and after a conviction, seeking to have the conviction expunged, vacated, or pardoned. If you need assistance with any type of criminal matter, do not hesitate to consult with us right away.

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Did the police violate your rights during a traffic stop in Tennessee?

Police officers have sirens, flashing lights, badges, and handcuffs, so they can pull you over or arrest you whenever they want, right? Wrong. Under the law, people in the United States have rights that protect them from the unreasonable actions of police officers, and officers must act within the confines of the law. However, this does not mean that officers do not abuse their authority and violate the law – and the rights of the public. 

When police violate your rights, it can have a significant impact on a subsequent criminal case if you face charges. You should seek help from a criminal defense attorney who can identify whether the police violated your rights at a traffic stop and how to use that violation as part of your defense.

No Justification for a Traffic Stop

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, which includes unreasonable detention or arrest. Because of this protection, police must have justification to pull you over – specifically, reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law in some way. It could be as simple as failing to signal for a turn, but there has to be some violation. If an officer has no reason to believe you violated the law, the traffic stop itself violates your rights.

Too often, however, officers will act with racial bias or will pull people over late at night on the off chance they may be intoxicated (without observing any signs of impaired driving). Many traffic stops may be unlawful and may violate your Fourth Amendment rights.

Unreasonable Search of Your Vehicle

An officer can conduct a search of your vehicle if they have a search warrant, if they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime, or if you consent. You always have the right to deny a search request and if you do so, an officer who stopped you will need to demonstrate probable cause for the search (since they usually will not have a search warrant for a vehicle they just pulled over).

Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion and must be based on factual information. Officers cannot simply say they had a hunch you had drugs in the car – they must show reason on which to base their suspicions. If police officers arrest you, they can perform a search incident to arrest, but they cannot search closed compartments of your car or anywhere that would not hold evidence of your offense. You would be surprised how many vehicle searches violate a driver’s rights, and any evidence stemming from the unlawful search should be suppressed.

Failing to Read Your Rights

If police arrest you or simply tell you that you are not free to go, you are considered to be in police custody for the purposes of the law. If police want to ask questions of someone in custody, they must first read the suspect their Miranda Rights. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present under the Fifth Amendment. It is a violation of the Constitution if police ask you any questions in custody without informing you of these rights.

Police Brutality

Police cannot use force whenever they want to. The law allows officers to use a reasonable amount of force to make an arrest or defend themselves from imminent harm. When determining what amount of force is “reasonable,” officers should consider the circumstances, including:

  • The severity of the suspected offense
  • The potential threat of the suspect to the community
  • Whether the suspect was trying to resist arrest or flee

When the circumstances do not warrant using force – such as when a suspect is not resisting – officers who use force engage in unlawful police brutality.

In recent years, much attention has been focused on the unjustified use of deadly force by police. There are specific circumstances under which police have the right to use force they reasonably know will cause severe or fatal bodily harm. Such circumstances include when a suspect poses the threat of serious harm to the officer, or when a suspect who creates a threat to others is fleeing. Police are not allowed to shoot at someone who is running away if they do not pose a threat. Unfortunately, you only need to read the news to see that officers can use unjustified and unlawful force and deadly force against citizens.

Your Rights after Police Misconduct

If police officers violate your rights, you can seek relief in various ways. First, if you are facing criminal charges after a traffic stop arrest, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can examine how to use any police misconduct as part of your defense. Some examples include:

  • If police pulled you over without reasonable suspicion, any information, evidence, or arrests stemming from the traffic stop are unlawful
  • If police illegally searched your car, any evidence they found should be suppressed from your case
  • If police failed to read your Miranda rights, any answers you gave to their questions should be suppressed

Often, raising constitutional violations can result in the dismissal of your charges. You need an attorney who understands how to identify when police violated your rights.

If you were the victim of police brutality, you have the right to file a lawsuit under federal law, 42 U.S. Code § 1983. You can seek damages for physical injuries, monetary losses, and emotional distress stemming from the brutality. Family members who lose loved ones due to police brutality also have the right to sue for their losses.

Our Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer is Here to Help At Barnes Law, we regularly represent criminal defendants who had their rights violated by police. We know how to raise violations as part of a comprehensive defense strategy. We defend against every type of criminal charge, from traffic offenses to violent crimes.

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The Basics of a Self-Defense Claim in Tennessee

Most people know that they have the right to defend themselves from harm. However, the law does not allow you to justify violence by claiming self-defense in any given situation. It is important to understand the basics of self-defense under Tennessee law, both to prevent criminal charges and to defend against them.

The following is a brief overview regarding how Tennessee treats self-defense. To discuss how the law may apply to a specific situation, please contact Barnes Law directly to consult with an experienced Knoxville criminal defense attorney.

How a Self-Defense Claim Works

Claiming self-defense means that you admit that you acted in violence toward another person, but you claim that you had legal justification for the violence. This is a common claim when someone is accused of assault or murder, and they allege that the harm was necessary to protect themselves from violence. There are some requirements for when you can lawfully claim self-defense:

  • You were not engaging in illegal activities at the time
  • You had the right to be in that location at that time
  • You had a real honest belief that the threat of bodily harm was imminent and that your actions were necessary to protect you from the imminent harm
  • Another reasonable person would have also feared imminent harm and believed the actions were necessary under the same circumstances

It is important to emphasize that you must prove you feared imminent harm, such as someone coming at you aggressively, swinging a punch, or driving toward you in their car as if to hit you. Self-defense would not be justified if someone threatened later violence against you. For example, if a person at a bar said they were going to fight you outside in 20 minutes, you would not be justified in using violence right then to prevent later harm.

In most cases, the other person must be the initial aggressor in the situation. If you push someone and start a fight and they push you back, you cannot lawfully continue to use violence to protect yourself from them. One exception to this requirement is if the other person substantially escalates the violence. If you push someone and then they pull out a gun, you can then protect yourself from deadly harm. Additionally, you may be able to claim self-defense if you start a fight, try to retreat from the fight, and the other person continues to act violently and pose an imminent threat of harm. If the other person is the initial aggressor, however, there is no duty to retreat before you act in self-defense in Tennessee like there is in some other states, due to the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Using Deadly Force in Self-Defense

In some cases, an act of self-defense may cause or threaten death to another person. Deadly force is only justified to protect against serious bodily harm or death. For instance, if someone swings a punch at you, the law does not allow you to shoot or stab them to protect yourself. The deadly force must be proportional to the harm feared.

Tennessee does have a law called the “Castle Doctrine,” which allows people to use deadly force under certain circumstances to protect themselves in certain locations. The Castle Doctrine is based on the idea that your home is your castle and you should be able to protect yourself in your home and similar location. The Castle Doctrine creates a legal presumption that self-defense may be justified if someone forcibly enters the following locations:

  • A home that you own, lease, or in which you are an invited guest
  • A business establishment that you own or in which you work as an employee or an agent of the owner to protect the premises
  • A building or dwelling of any kind with a roof over it that is intended for use by people, including mobile homes and tents
  • Any type of motorized vehicle designed for people to use on public roads to transport people or items

In order for the Castle Doctrine to apply, you must be lawfully in the location and you must know or reasonably believe that the other person unlawfully entered. The law does not permit deadly force in the following situations:

  • The victim of the deadly force had the right to enter the home or location
  • The victim of the deadly force was trying to remove a child or person over which they have legal custody or guardianship
  • The person using deadly force was engaging in unlawful activity or using the building to conduct unlawful acts
  • The victim of the deadly force was a law enforcement officer entering the building or operating a roadblock or traffic stop as part of their duties as an officer, and the person using force had reason to believe the victim was an officer

If someone has the right to enter a home or building, the Castle Doctrine does not protect you if you use deadly force against them. You also cannot provoke the person into entering the home of using force. Deadly force is never warranted to protect items of personal property or to get a trespasser off a property if they are not trying to enter the building or its dire

Claiming Self-Defense

A successful self-defense claim requires careful strategizing and presentation of evidence. If police arrest you, it may be tempting to tell them you acted in self-defense right then and there. However, if you cannot later prove self-defense, your claim may be used as an admission of a violent act. Instead, always call a criminal defense lawyer before answering any questions or making any claims to police or prosecutors.

Find Out How Our Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You At Barnes Law, we regularly represent clients facing violent criminal charges, identifying all possible defenses such as self-defense claims. After an arrest, it is always wise to exercise your right to an attorney immediately and contact our office for assistance. We can also help if you already face criminal charges and will work to reach the most favorable outcome possible.

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How does evidence get suppressed?

To get a criminal conviction at trial, a prosecutor must present enough evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant is guilty of the specified offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Because this is the highest burden of proof in the U.S. justice system, it often requires a substantial amount of evidence to meet. Law enforcement can provide evidence from investigations and the prosecutor can present the evidence in court.

Evidence can come in many forms, including:

  • Physical objects
  • Photographs
  • Witness statements
  • Video or audio recordings
  • Digital data
  • Scientific findings

The law in the United States does not allow all types of evidence to be submitted in court against a defendant, however. There are many protections for defendants in place and rules of evidence that dictate when evidence can be lawfully obtained and presented in court. When illegal evidence comes against a defendant, it can often lead to a wrongful conviction. For this reason, it is imperative to have a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer handling your case who knows how to get evidence “suppressed.”

Motions to Suppress

The suppression of evidence occurs when a judge rules that certain evidence should not be submitted at trial. In order for a judge to rule on such an issue, a lawyer must often file a motion with the court asking for a ruling. A motion to suppress is the catalyst that can lead to the keeping evidence out of your criminal case.

In order to succeed on a motion to suppress, your attorney must present sufficient factual information and apply specific laws to those facts to convince the judge that the evidence is illegal. Law presented in these motions can include case law, state or federal rules, or often, the Constitution of the United States. These motions must be persuasively drafted with sound legal analysis and reasoning.

The prosecution can respond to your motion to suppress with their own arguments in favor of the evidence. In some cases, the court will hold a motion hearing during which both parties will argue their case. The judge will then rule on whether the evidence should be suppressed or not.

The Importance of Evidence Suppression

Often, the suppression of the right evidence can lead a jury to acquit you at trial, or even to the dismissal of charges before a trial ever happens. A common example happens in drug-related cases. In order to convict you of drug possession, the prosecutor must usually prove that police found a controlled substance. They cannot simply tell the jury you had cocaine – instead, they should have the evidence tested and present test results as proof that the substance in question was cocaine.

If police officers obtained the drugs unlawfully – which is more common than you may imagine – a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the illegally-obtained drug evidence. If the motion is successful, the prosecutor can no longer use that drug evidence to prove that you possessed drugs. This is often the main piece of evidence in drug cases and without it, the prosecution usually knows it cannot prove the drug charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, they may often dismiss the charges then and there. This is only one of many examples of how the suppression of evidence can prevent a conviction.

Common Reasons to Suppress Evidence

As part of the discovery phase of a criminal case, your attorney will obtain and analyze all the evidence the prosecution plans to use against you and how the evidence was obtained. An experienced attorney should be able to identify when there is reason to file a motion to suppress.

Some examples of evidence commonly suppressed include:

  • Evidence obtained by an unreasonable search in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights
  • Evidence obtained due to an unlawful traffic stop or arrest, which constitutes an unreasonable seizure in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights
  • Confessions obtained without proper Miranda warnings in violation of your Fifth Amendment rights
  • Confessions obtained by coercion or physical force
  • Evidence that constitutes hearsay without a valid exception under the Federal Rules of Evidence
  • Evidence that is not relevant to the case at hand
  • Evidence that is unreasonably prejudicial to the defendant
  • Evidence that is not reliable

The question of reliability often arises in criminal cases, as prosecutors often try to admit evidence based on questionable science. This can include evidence involving fingerprints, bloodstain patterns, eyewitness identifications, or DNA. For example, for decades, many people took the witness stand and claimed they were “experts” in analyzing blood spatter and giving their opinion on how the crime occurred. However, in recent years, scientific studies have cast substantial doubt on the reliability of blood spatter analysis and claim such “experts” led to many wrongful convictions. In this day and age, defense attorneys regularly question a prosecutor’s blood spatter testimony and seek for it to be suppressed.

In addition, defense lawyers know that forensic labs can make many mistakes that lead to unreliable testimony. This is common in DUI cases in which a blood test showed a defendant had drugs in their system or a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit. Labs may mislabel or switch samples, store them improperly, fail to record results right away, use uncalibrated testing equipment, and make many other mistakes that should render their testimony and the test results unreliable for admission at trial.

Contact a Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today

There are many, many other types of evidence that should be suppressed from criminal trials. The problem is that unrepresented defendants often do not realize when evidence against them is unlawful or how to go about getting it suppressed. Suppressing key evidence is only one of many defense strategies we regularly pursue at Barnes Law. If you were arrested or face criminal charges, you should not wait any longer to call a skilled Knoxville defense lawyer for a free consultation. The sooner Barnes Law starts working on your case, the sooner we can start building the most effective defense strategy for you.

A First-Time Drug Conviction Can Affect Your Professional Future

If the police arrest you on suspicion of drug possession or sales, you will likely face charges for a serious drug-related offense under Tennessee law. Many people fail to take first-time drug charges seriously, as they mistakenly believe that having small amounts of drugs is “no big deal.” In reality, any drug conviction can have serious and lasting consequences far into the future.

When you worry about a drug-related conviction, you may initially worry about the possibility of fines, probation, or time behind bars. You may not realize that the consequences of a conviction can reach far probation or jail a sentence, and the financial implications can continue long after your fines and court costs are paid. This is because a drug conviction can have lasting effects on your professional future.

 

Higher Education Opportunities

Drug possession charges are common among college students. While you may think a drug charge is a separate matter from your college attendance and academic performance, drug possession violates college codes of conduct, and your school may take disciplinary action against you based on your criminal case. Such action can include expulsion from your school, and you can find it difficult to gain acceptance to another institution.

Even if you are not expelled, drug activity can disqualify you from participating in collegiate athletics, which can also cause you to lose a substantial scholarship. Drug convictions can also render you ineligible for federal financial aid, upon which many students rely to attend college. Not finishing a college program can limit your opportunities in your intended professional field.

 

Finding a New Job

When you apply for a job, many companies will conduct a criminal background check as part of the application process. When a prospective employer learns you have a drug conviction on your record, they may decide not to hire you, despite your experience or qualifications for the position. This is especially true as most drug convictions are felonies in Tennessee, and many companies have policies against hiring convicted felons, even for a first-time offense. For this reason, a drug conviction can substantially limit your job opportunities and your ability to earn higher salaries.

 

Eligibility for a Professional License

Many careers require you to obtain and maintain a professional license. Such careers include:

  • Doctors and dentists
  • Nurses
  • Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Locksmiths
  • Commercial drivers
  • Chiropractors

When a licensing board considers an applicant, they will often consider many aspects of their personal and professional history, including their criminal background. Criminal activity is often viewed as a negative factor when it comes to issuing professional licenses. For example, a drug conviction can cast doubt on your character and fitness to handle money or confidential information or on your reliability due to possible substance abuse issues.

 

Security Clearances

Many government agencies, government contracts, or security companies require you to have some level of a security clearance. The process of obtaining a clearance is not an easy one, and many factors will be considered when determining whether to issue you a clearance to have access to confidential and sensitive information. One factor is your criminal background.

While a criminal conviction may not disqualify you from getting a security clearance on its own, it can work against you. According to the Department of Defense, some of the main reasons for a clearance denial include:

  • Drug involvement
  • Criminal conduct
  • Personal conduct

As you can imagine, a drug conviction can be a strike against you when it comes to all of the above factors, making it more difficult to obtain or keep a security clearance.

 

Avoiding a Drug Conviction Whenever Possible

Even a first-time drug conviction can affect your professional life for years to come, often limiting your earnings and opportunities. This is only one of many reasons why you should avoid even a first conviction whenever you can. The right criminal defense lawyer will be able to identify ways to defend against your charges and avoid a conviction on your record, depending on the circumstances of your arrest and charges.

Some common defenses against drug charges include:

  • 4th Amendment violations – Police cannot simply search you, your vehicle, or your home whenever they want, as the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. If police officers found drugs without a warrant or another legal justification for a search, a skilled defense attorney can argue that any drug evidence should be suppressed form your case.
  • Challenging constructive possession – Drug possession charges can be based on actual possession (i.e., you had the drugs on your immediate person) or constructive possession (i.e., the drugs were in a place where you had access to control them, such as a shared apartment or vehicle). Prosecutors usually allege constructive possession based on circumstantial evidence, which an attorney can challenge.
  • Forensic lab errors – In order to convict you of drug possession, a prosecutor must prove that the substance you possessed was an illegal drug. This is often accomplished by forensic lab testing and reports. Forensic lab technicians can make mistakes that render test results unreliable or inaccurate. Your attorney can provide evidence of possible errors to call drug evidence into question.

In addition to the above defenses, a defense lawyer can also look into the possibility of a diversion program such as drug court that keeps you out of jail and keeps a conviction off your criminal record. The best way to know your defense options is to discuss the specifics of your charges with a criminal defense law firm as soon as you can.

 

Contact an Experienced Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible

You should never risk an unnecessary or wrongful drug conviction by representing yourself. Even for first-time offenders, convictions can have long-term effects on both your professional and personal life. To ensure you obtain the best possible outcome in your drug case, you should consult with a qualified Knoxville criminal defense lawyer right away after an arrest. Attorney John Barnes regularly handles drug-related cases in Tennessee, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free case evaluation.

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. 

Knoxville Tennessee DUI Attorney

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.

Knoxville Tennessee DUI Attorney
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.