Tennessee Court Holds DUI Blood Draws Without a Warrant Illegal

The Court of Criminal Appeals recently reaffirmed an earlier decision, finding that when a DUI suspect refuses to give consent to have his blood tested, that the police must get a search warrant prior to a forced blood draw.  Search Warrant

Previously, a state law requiring “mandatory” blood draws, for suspects with a prior offense of who were involved in an accident with injury, had been interpreted to allow police to take the suspect’s blood over his objection, without a warrant.

The Tennessee Court cited the United State Supreme Court decision in Missouri v. McNeely, for the proposition that alcohol leaving the blood stream due to the passage of time is not enough, by itself, to equal “exigent circumstances.”  Without exigent circumstances, or some other established exception (like consent), police must get a search warrant in order to legally take a DUI suspect’s blood.

Read the full opinion here.

Congratulations to fellow Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers member Claiborne Ferguson, of Memphis, on prevailing in both the trial and appellate courts.

Knox County Courts Closed for Weather – UPDATE

UPDATE 2/18/15 @ 7:15 – Both Knox County General Sessions and all divisions of Criminal Court have announced they will be closed tomorrow, Thursday the 19th.  The policy on the General Sessions Court website, states those courts will be closed when Knox County Schools are closed for “road conditions due to snow and/or ice.”  While Knox County Schools have already announced they are closed Friday, I don’t know whether thats due to “road conditions” or due to the extreme cold temperatures.  For now, its too early to say General Sessions will be closed Friday. Stay tuned for further updates.

For the second day in a row, Knox County General Sessions Courts are closed.  The General Sessions Courts follow the Knox County Schools for weather related closings, but do not do weather delays.  So, in the future, if you see schools are closed, so are the General Sessions courts.  BUT, if schools are on a 2 hour delay, courts will open on time.

Icy trees on Wall Avenue
Icy trees on Wall Avenue

As of this morning the streets around downtown and main road were in good shape and easily drivable, but much of the county is still inaccessible.  I drove on Middlebrook, Sutherland, and Kingston Pike, all of which were easily drivable, though Sutherland was pretty white.  Dallas and I both made it into the office today, but Kendahl lives a little farther out and is still snowed in.

There is no word yet on court or school closings tomorrow, though with the low of -8 tonight and snow still coming down, I’m not betting on either being back up and running.  As long as its safe to be here though, the Barnes Law Firm will be open and serving clients.

Stay warm and safe.

– John

Uber is now in Knoxville!

Uber is a great car service that is not only easy to use and convenient, but could also reduce the number of Knoxville DUIs.  Thats because, with the Uber app on your phone, you can summon a comfortable ride to your exact location, see where your car is while its on its way there, and get dropped off, with much less time and hassle than with a cab company.  You don’t even have to have cash or a credit card.  Just save your card information in the app and when its time to get out, payment is automatic.  There is no financial transaction with the driver at all.

Here’s Uber’s announcement e-mail:

Uber Knoxville Announcement

I’ve been a big fan of Uber since I first used it at a DUI conference in Denver, CO with a group of lawyers.  Instead of staying at the hotel or packing into taxis, our host got on his phone and in minutes a black suburban showed up ready to take us all to Elway’s Steakhouse, where no one had to worry about having a glass of wine or a couple of cocktails, because another Uber SUV was always going to be only a few minutes away.

Knoxville is a college town and its full of parties, bars,  get togethers, and opportunities to make a bad decision and drive from one place to another.  If Uber can catch on with the university crowd, it could really cut down on the number of drivers who shouldn’t be on the road on Friday and Saturday nights.  Not that DUIs are reserved for UT students.  Uber will have plenty of potential customers all over Knoxville.

Try out Uber this weekend, or if you don’t choose a designated driver or call a traditional cab service. The Barnes Law Firm is dedicated to DUI defense and serving those who have been wrongfully charged or just made a bad decision, but we still would far prefer if you all stay safe and don’t have to deal with a DUI, or worse, at all.

Have a great weekend.  Go Vols!

Why Simple Possession Isn’t So Simple in Tennessee

Marijuana Plant
Cannabis Seedling Marijuana

Marijuana laws around the country are changing.  Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado; medicinal marijuana is legal in 23 states; and attitudes about the use and danger of marijuana have changed from people on Main Street to the main stream media.  BUT the law in Tennessee remains the same.  Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a serious crime.  Punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.  While its true that most low level marijuana offenders do not end up incarcerated, there are still serious consequences if a simple possession charge isn’t taken seriously and handled properly.

Convictions for simple possession, with only a few exceptions, are forever.  A conviction, even one that carries no jail time and only a fine, will land you on probation for the year and stay on your permanent record forever.  The only ways to avoid that fate are:

  • Don’t get convicted in the first place

This is the best option as it can keep you from spending time on probation, paying expensive fines and court costs, and being at risk for being thrown in jail if anything goes wrong.  Even if you acknowledge the fact that you did have marijuana in your possession, there are often other issues that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can identify that could keep you from being convicted.  Often times there are ways around a conviction that you could never know about from researching online or even showing up to court.  The only and best way to know if avoiding a conviction is possible is to talk to a lawyer who regularly handles marijuana possession cases.

  • Bargain for a judicial diversion under T.C.A. §40-35-313 (or rarely a pretrial diversion)

If you’ve never been convicted of a class A misdemeanor for which you served time, or any felony in Tennessee, you are likely eligible for a judicial diversion.  Judicial diversion means you sign a guilty plea but the court does not enter it.  Instead it puts the plea in the file and leaves it there for 11 months and 29 days.  If during that time you abide by all the conditions of probation and pay your fines and costs, the case will be dismissed and, for a fee of $450, can be expunged from your record.  Even if you are eligible for a diversion, you are not entitled to one.  You have to get the agreement of the prosecutor and the approval of the court first.

  • Expungement

If you are convicted of a simple possession and you have no other convictions anywhere in the country and if you wait 5 years from the end of your sentence (usually a total of 6 years from you conviction), you may be able to have the conviction removed from your record.  To do so you will have to file a Petition and get the consent of the District Attorney’s office and the approval of the court, as well as pay the required fees.  This process, like a diversion, is not a matter of right.

If you have been cited or arrested for simple possession, give the Barnes Law Firm and call and find out how we can help.  Using an experienced marijuana and drug charge attorney can save you a lot of hassle, money, and other serious consequences in the long run, and it probably is not even as expensive as you might imagine.  So call us at (865) 999-0294 today.

Attorney Barnes Selected as Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer

The National Trial Lawyers have selected Mr. Barnes as one of the Top 40 Trial Lawyers Under 40 years old in Tennessee. Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who exemplify superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers.

The National Trial Lawyers

Eligibility for Top 40 Under 40:

To encourage and recognize premier younger lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers invites its Top 100 members to submit nominations of outstanding attorneys younger than the age of 40 for inclusion in our Top 40 Under 40 section. Only 40 young attorneys from each state or region will be selected for membership each year. Qualifications are essentially the same as those for the Top 100; nominees should demonstrate superior leadership, reputation, influence, stature and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense attorneys. The membership committee will consider:

  • Reputation among peers, the judiciary and the public
  • Achievements, settlements and verdicts as a trial lawyer
  • Board certification as a trial lawyer
  • Nominations from leading trial lawyers, current members and Executive Committee members
  • Leadership and membership in other national and state trial lawyer organizations
  • Rankings and ratings by leading national evaluation organizations

Mr. Barnes is honored by the recognition of his representation of Tennesseans.

New Office Redesign

The New Office is Ready for Clients!

With lots of help from my wife Taylor, brother Travis, legal assistant Beth, and Diana and Kelsey from Bliss Home, the new office space has gone from this:

Office before

to this:


in just over a week.

photo 1

We’ve actually been working and having client meetings here for the last week, but the final pieces came together after Travis made a Chattanooga to Atlanta to Knoxville to Chattanooga furniture move all in one day yesterday. He picked up the glass top desk and the large bookshelf, and without his help we’d have been waiting another 5 weeks for delivery!

Now we have a great space where clients can be comfortable and where we can spend the time, energy, and effort required to explore each case and discover what strategies and tactics will get us the result we want.

Some of the pictures of how it came together are posted below. I need to give a huge public thank you to Diana, Kelsey, and the team at Bliss Home. Diana did a great job with the interior design, selecting each piece of furniture and creating the atmosphere I knew I wanted but didn’t know how to put together myself. I highly recommend Bliss for furniture and interior design. I’ve used them for both my home and office and they have never disappointed.

Reception After
Reception After


Reception before
Reception before

Travis after a long day’s work!  (We celebrated with ribs from Calhoun’s after)



Reception painting
Reception painting


Getting the office together has been fun, but its time to get back to work.  Tomorrow is Tennessee Association for Justice Conference in Asheville, NC.  Looking forward to learning lots of ways to win more cases and get clients the justice they deserve.

A Misdemeanor is No Big Deal Right, Think Again

Everyday people in Knoxville and all over East Tennessee are given citations, without being handcuffed and taken to jail. Offenses vary from possession of marijuana, to driving on a suspended license, to shoplifting. The thing these crimes have in common is that they are misdemeanors that do not require an officer to formally arrest. As a result, people often think they aren’t a big deal and that they can handle the situation themselves by showing up to court. That would be a big mistake.

Was your car searched after a K-9 "alert"?  Call BarnesLaw at 805-5703.
Was your car searched after a K-9 “alert”? Call BarnesLaw at 805-5703.
Time magazine this week reported on the unseen consequences of misdemeanor convictions. The article told the story of Christian Watts, who in 2002 was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and wound up with a misdemeanor drug conviction on his record. Despite earning his associates and bachelor’s degrees and working towards his masters degree, he described his life as “stuck in a standstill” due to the roadblocks that the convictions has put in his path. That came as no surprise to the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Norman Reimer, who believes that “The single most dangerous thing people think is that if they get a conviction and don’t go to jail they won’t face issues.”

The truth is that misdemeanor convictions can come with serious consequences that are hard to imagine years in the future. Convictions can effects circumstances as varied as access to housing, borrowing money, getting a license for many professions, and child custody determinations. The good news is, that there are often alternatives to pleading guilty and having a criminal convictions. Hiring a quality lawyer for a misdemeanor case will often save someone a tremendous amount of time and money, but too often people don’t even call for a free consultation with me, thinking that they can’t afford to hire a lawyer or because talking to a lawyer is intimidating.

The long term costs of a convictions will almost always be larger than the short term investment in hiring a good lawyer, and often people save money on their case in the short term, by avoiding fines, court costs, and restitution. The legal process doesn’t have to be intimidating and I work hard to make sure potential clients are put at ease, treated well and with respect, and quoted a fair and affordable fee that can be paid for overtime on a payment plan.

Don’t go to court without at least calling to speak with me or coming in to the office. Call today at (865) 999-0294, to discuss your options in dealing with your misdemeanor.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia visits UT

Supreme Court Justice Scalia visited UT today and proclaimed himself the criminal defense bar’s best friend on the high court. Also said Heller was his proudest opinion. Good lecture, but the Q&A was a let down, no questions that prompted anything too interesting.10258058_227323744133645_3557975642897548644_n