Kane & Crowell

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

No More Revoked Licenses for Not Paying Fines

No More Revovoked Licenses for Not Paying Fines- No More Revovoked 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 If your license was revoked or suspended due to nonpayment of court costs or fines, contact us at (615) 784-4801 to discuss how you can have your license reinstated. 

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Spires v. Simpson: The Supreme Court Clarifies Wrongful Death

Image: the Tennessee Supreme Court house

            In December 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued the opinion on Spires v. Simpson, concerning a wrongful death lawsuit out of Monroe County, Tennessee. 

            In Spires, Mr. and Mrs. Spires were parents of a minor child, born in the spring of 2009.  One month after the child’s birth, Mr. Spires abandoned the family, though the parties did not divorce.  Mr. Spires did not provide any child support or financial support to Mrs. Spires.  In October 2010, Mrs. Spires was tragically killed in a car accident.  Following her death, custody of the Spires’ child was given to Mrs. Spires’ mother. 

            One month after Mrs. Spires’ death, Mr. Spires brought a wrongful death action against the driver of the vehicle in the accident that killed Mrs. Spires.  Both Mrs. Spires’ mother and brother sought intervention in the wrongful death accident, claiming that they, as custodians of the Spires’ child, were entitled to any wrongful death settlement, not Mr. Spires due to Mr. Spires having failed to pay any child support to Mrs. Spires for benefit of his child. 

            The trial court agreed with Mrs. Spires’ mother and brother, and held that Mr. Spires could not recover any amounts from the wrongful death lawsuit due to him owing back child support to Mrs. Spires and for benefit of four other unrelated children.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding that while Mr. Spires was entitled to prosecute the wrongful death lawsuit; however, any recovery he received would be applied to his back child support arrearages on the children other than his child with Mrs. Spires. 

            The Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed with both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.  The Supreme Court held that the child support arrearage provisions at Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-5-107 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 31-2-105 did not apply in the Spires’ case, as Mr. Spires was prosecuting the wrongful death action as the surviving spouse of Mrs. Spires.  The Child Support Arrearage forfeiture provisions under Tennessee law only preclude a parent who is behind on child support from prosecuting a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased child, when that parent owes child support for benefit of the deceased child.  The Supreme Court found that the purpose of the two forfeiture provisions was to prevent a parent behind on child support from financially benefitting from the wrongful death of a child the parent failed to support.    

            The Spires opinion clarifies the interpretation of who can bring a wrongful death action, and the Child Support Arrearage forfeiture provisions.  For more information, or to read the full opinion, visit http://tncourts.gov/courts/supreme-court/opinions/2017/12/27/kenneth-m-spires-et-al-v-haley-reece-simpson-et-al .

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Domestic Violence: What you should know

Image: Domestic Violence Statistics  

            Every year in America, ten million (10,000,000) men and women are the victim of domestic violence.1  In 2014, 74,023 domestic violence crimes were reported to law enforcement agencies in Tennessee.2  Thousands of other incidents of domestic violence go unreported. 

            Law enforcement and the courts of the State of Tennessee approach domestic violence issues very seriously.  Accordingly, there are a number of statutes about domestic violence that Tennesseans should be aware of. 

            Often, when domestic violence is alleged and an arrest is made, the individual arrested will be held in jail for a minimum of twelve (12) hours.  Equally often, when such an individual makes bail and is granted release, a court will issue bond conditions which require the arrested individual to stay away from the victim.  For parties who reside together, this can mean no longer residing in the same house or apartment. 

            In addition, those who plead guilty or are convicted of domestic assault are prohibited from possessing firearms or acquiring firearms in the future in addition to the other statutory penalties, including misdemeanor imprisonment and fines.  Multiple convictions for domestic assault may result in felony penalties, including imprisonment. 

            Certain individuals, including victims of stalking, domestic abuse, or sexual assault may seek an order of protection from a court to prevent their attacker from coming about their person or contacting them.  Individuals against whom an order of protection is issued may not possess firearms and are required to transfer any firearms in their possession to a third-party within forty-eight (48) hours of the issuance of the order. 

            Individuals who violate an order of protection are subject to arrest and a mandatory twelve (12) hour hold in jail.  Violation of an order protection is a Class A misdemeanor, and any sentence imposed must be served consecutively to any sentence for a related domestic violence crime based upon the same factual allegations. 

            Attorneys at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center are experienced in both domestic and criminal matters related to domestic violence.  If you are interested in information about divorce or child custody, or if you have been arrested and charged with domestic violence, call us at (615) 784-4800. 

            If you, a friend, or a loved one, have experienced domestic violence, you have options.  Contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (1-800)−799−7233, or HomeSafe (for Wilson County residents) at (615) 444-8955.  You can also contact the Wilson County District Attorney’s Office at (615) 443-2863 or the Wilson County Sheriffs Department at (615) 444-1412 to learn more about orders of protection.

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1 https://ncadv.org/statistics

2 https://ncadv.org/assets/2497/tennessee.pdf             

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Going on Your Permanent Record: the Juvenile Justice System

The Wilson County Criminal Justice Center in Lebanon.

           The term “juvenile” is sometimes associated with thoughts of immaturity, inexperience and curiosity. Juveniles often make mistakes from which they can learn, but may have lasting consequences. Thankfully, in Tennessee, there are ways to keep a juvenile’s criminal record confidential to prevent harm to their future.

            In Tennessee, an arrest as a juvenile should not show up on a background check. However, there is no guarantee that will not happen. Sometimes a simple clerical error can cause a juvenile arrest to show up on a background check. However, juvenile convictions, or guilty pleas, can show up on background checks. In order to prevent an arrest or conviction from showing up on a background check, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should ensure the juvenile’s criminal record is expunged, or “wiped clean” as soon as possible. Some offenses, such as sexual crimes or certain felonies, are not able to be expunged. For all others, records can be expunged as long as the juvenile meets certain criteria, such as not getting into trouble and making good choices for one year from the date the court entered the judgment.

            To have a criminal record expunged, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney must petition the court on his/her behalf for an expungement. Most courts require an expungement fee to be paid before it can be finalized. Once the expungement order is signed, the juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should keep a copy of the order as they cannot obtain another copy in the future, if needed.

            Many people ask if a juvenile has to answer “yes” when asked if they have been convicted of a crime. The short answer is, an arrest is not a conviction and is confidential but a conviction may show up on a background check unless it is expunged. If the record has not been expunged, it’s usually best to answer “yes” and then explain the situation later. However, before you answer “yes”, it’s best to consult with a criminal attorney experienced in juvenile matters. At Kane & Crowell, our attorneys have experience dealing with matters of juvenile justice.  Contact us at (615) 784-4800 to learn more. 

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