Kane & Crowell

The official blog of Kane & Crowell, a Lebanon, Tennessee Law Office.

No More Revoked Licenses for Not Paying Fines

It has been a long-standing practice in Tennessee that a person’s driver’s license can be revoked when they do not pay court costs or fines. While some may advocate for this policy as a way to make sure a person is responsible, it is completely counter-productive, as U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger just stated in a recent ruling.

A simple misdemeanor can carry court costs and fines of $500. Someone with multiple misdemeanor convictions or a felony convictions can have fines of thousands of dollars. Many people find it difficult to pay these fines as they have had to pay for legal representation, missed work for court dates and some have served time in jail. The balance of the costs and fines continues to increase when someone isn’t able to pay. The state’s practice has been to revoke a person’s driver’s license in order to coerce them into paying court costs and fines. This practice is ineffective because, if people cannot drive, they will not be able to work and will never be able to pay their balance in full. This scenario commonly leads to a person’s license being revoked for years. As a result, many people are forced to drive without a license just to get back and forth to work, which can lead to further criminal charges such as driving on a revoked license. A new charge would also incur additional court costs and fines. This creates a cycle that many people find difficult to navigate. Judge Trauger acknowledged this in the recent ruling.

Judge Trauger ordered that the over 100,000 people who have been affected by this procedure in Tennessee can begin the process of getting their licenses back. If your license was revoked or suspended due to nonpayment of court costs or fines, contact us at (615) 784-4801 to discuss how you can have your license reinstated. 

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Murphy v. NCAA: The United States Supreme Court Allows States to Regulate Sports Gaming

           

           On Monday, May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.  In this opinion, the Court ruled 7-2 in favor of striking down a Federal law which prohibited betting on sports, other than in narrowly defined exceptions.  The ruling is a victory for States’ rights, and may have greater implications for the States in the Union, in the future. 

            In 1992, Congress passed the “Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act” (PASPA).  Effectively, PASPA prohibited the states from promoting, allowing or authorizing gambling on sports activities, except for “sports lotteries” in Oregon, Delaware and Montana, and certain gambling activities in Nevada.  PASPA also contained an exception that gave states which previously had allowed casino gaming in the past ten years a one-year grace period to pass laws legalizing sports betting.  PASPA did not apply to gambling or betting on certain activities, such as jai alai and horse and dog racing. 

            In 2011, voters in the State of New Jersey approved a referendum to allow sports betting within the state.  In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed a law allowing sports wagering at casinos and racetracks.  Various professional sports leagues, including the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League filed suit against the state, claiming that the 2012 law violated PASPA.  The State of New Jersey was unsuccessful in trying to enforce the 2012 law allowing sports betting until the case was accepted by the United States Supreme Court in 2016.    

            The Supreme Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, held in substance, that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which holds that powers not expressly delegated to the Federal government are reserved for the states, prohibits the States from being required to enforce a Federal statutory scheme.  The distinction is that while the Federal government is free to pass and enforce laws related to subjects of Federal importance, it cannot and may not require the States to pass and enforce laws substantially of Federal origin. 

            Post-Murphy, the States are now free to authorize sports gambling within their borders, as the majority of PASPA has been struck down as unconstitutional in light of the Tenth Amendment.  This does not mean that sports gambling will be legal in all states, including Tennessee; it simply means that the States are no longer prevented from crafting laws approving sports gambling.  The next step following this case would be for the respective State legislatures to pass laws allowing sports gambling. 

            Looking ahead, Murphy is an important opinion in the field of States’ rights and the Tenth Amendment.  The Murphy opinion gives some support to the notion that the States may be allowed to pass laws of purely state concern, without interference from the Federal government. 

            To learn more about this opinion, as well as other Supreme Court opinions, visit scotusblog.com

            If you have questions about legal representation, contact Angel Kane at (615) 444-8081.   

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Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Priority of Claims in Wrongful Death

 
       In March, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued its decision in Nelson v. Myres, involving interpretation and priority of claims under Tennessee's wrongful death statute, which can be found at Tenn. Code Ann. Sec. 20-5-106.  In Nelson, Mrs. Myres was killed in an automobile accident in Sumner County, Tennessee.  Her husband, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, was later incarcerated for vehicular homicide.  
 
       Both Mr. Myres and Brittany Nelson, Mrs. Myres' adult daughter, filed wrongful death actions on behalf of Mrs. Myres.  The Sumner County trial court dismissed Ms. Nelson's action, holding that Mr. Myres' surviving spouse, had priority to maintain the wrongful death action.  On initial appeal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holidng that Mr. Myres had a conflict in bringing the wrongful death action, as he could be both a plaintiff and defendant (as he could be determined partially at fault) and that only Ms. Nelson's action would adequately prosecute Mrs. Myres' wrongful death.  
 
       The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed, and agreed with the trial court that Mr. Myres, as surviving spouse of Mrs. Myres, had priority to bring the wrongful death action over Ms. Nelson, as the daughter.  THe Supreme Court specifically noted that Tennessee's wrongful death statute Sec. 20-5-106, expressly provides that the surviving spouse has prority over a decedent's children, to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the decedent.  The Supreme Court also noted that there was no exception for the circumstances present: when the surviving spouse may be implicated as negligently causing the death of the decedent spouse.  There are, however, exceptions in Tennessee law, wheree a surviving spouse may not bring a wrongful death action on behalf of their spouse, where the suriviving spouse has abandoned or intentionally killed or caused the death of the decedent.  
 
       If you have any questions about personal injury law, contact Attorney Angel Kane at (615) 444-8081.   
 
 
 

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Legislature Passes Cell Phone Access Law in Domestic Violence Cases

            On April 3, 2018, the TN legislature officially passed House Bill 2033, which allows victims of domestic abuse to request a court grant access to the victim’s cell phone plan, even if they are not the account holder. 

            The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Coley, allows a victim of domestic violence to ask that the issuing court direct that the victim’s phone company transfer billing responsibility and account rights to the victim when that victim is not the account holder.  The victim may ask for such an order when initially seeking an Order of Protection or when making a separate request of the court. 

            If granted, the Court will order the victim’s phone service provider to transfer account responsibility to the victim of the victim’s phone number and the phone numbers of any minor children in the victim’s care.  Once transferred, the victim gains all rights of the account holder, but is responsible for the payment of the account.      

            Presumably the legislature’s intent in enacting this law was to enable victims of domestic violence to gain control over their cell phone accounts, when the alleged abuser is the primary account holder.  The law should also help domestic violence victims by making it easier for such victim to cancel an existing phone number and get a new phone number to prevent unwanted contact from the abuser. 

            The bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this week.  The bill had previously passed unanimously in the Senate in February. 

            According to 2016 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation statistics, 78,100 domestic violence incidents were reported to Tennessee law enforcement agencies during the preceding year.  If you are the victim of domestic violence, you have options.  Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233 or your local law enforcement agency.

            If you seek legal representation regarding divorce or child custody in conjunction with a domestic violence matter, contact the attorneys of Kane & Crowell Family Law Center at (615) 784-4800.   

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Notable Tennessee Bills - 2018 Legislative Session

 

            As of present, the Tennessee Legislature is in session, and there are a number of interesting bills that have been proposed and await debate, voting and eventual enactment or abandonment.  In today’s blog post, we take a look at some of these bills that could eventually become law. 

            House Bill 1698 is certainly a bill to watch over the next few weeks, as it could result in notable changes to Tennessee DUI laws.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hulsey (R – Kingsport) and Rep. Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains), would give criminal judges across the state the discretion to ban those convicted of DUI from purchasing alcohol.  Upon first offense conviction, the judge would have the discretion to bar alcohol sales to the defendant for one year.  Upon a second conviction, a judge would have the discretion to bar alcohol sales to the defendant for two years.  The bill originally gave a lifetime ban of alcohol sales upon an individuals third conviction for driving under the influence, as well as made the sale of alcohol to those convicted and barred from purchasing alcohol a Class C misdemeanor.  This bill was revised by Rep. Michael Curcio (R – Dickson) to remove the lifetime ban and the Class C misdemeanor punishment to sellers of alcohol.  The bill is currently before the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee.  If passed, it could become law as soon as July 2018.    

            House Bill 1862 is an important bill for criminal defendants who enter into pre-trial diversion.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Shelby), Rep. William Lamberth (R-Sumner), Rep. Karen Camper (D-Shelby), and Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Shelby), would reduce the cost of expungement for a criminal offense upon successful completion of pre-trial diversion, from $350 to $180.  This bill would make it easier for defendants to have their pre-trial diverted offenses expunged and removed from their record, and ideally, less likely to suffer adverse consequences as the result of having a criminal record. 

            House Bill 2068 would create a new class of criminal offenses related to the false and improper marketing of alcohol and drug treatment services.  Unfortunately, Tennessee has struggled with the spectre of opioid abuse, and as a result a wide variety of treatment programs (both legitimate and illegitimate) are advertised in the state.  This bill, sponsored by Rep. Harold Love (D-Davidson) and Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) would create criminal offenses for the false or misleading advertising of alcohol and drug treatment facilities or giving or receiving financial incentives or benefits for being referred or referring individuals into such an alcohol and drug treatment facility.  Such laws are undoubtedly designed to prevent opportunistic companies using questionable marketing tactics from taking advantage of individuals suffering from alcohol or drug dependency.  The laws range in severity from Class A misdemeanors to Class E felonies. 

            These bills are only but a few of the many bills presently making their way through the House of Representatives and Senate.  For more information about these bills, or other bills of the 110th Legislative Session, visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/ or https://legiscan.com/TN/trends

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