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Chattanooga Criminal Defense and Family Law Blog

Mediate first, litigate if needed -- That is the Tennessee way

Are you getting ready to file for divorce? Are you afraid of the litigation process? Thankfully, in Tennessee, couples who want to dissolve their marriages must try mediation before litigating the matter.

What is mediation? How long does it take? What if we have complex assets or child care needs?

Father's rights gaining momentum in Tennessee: Two key changes

The law often evolves. These changes can reflect an attempt to right a wrong, an attempt to adjust the current law so that its application is more likely to result in justice. This is true for all areas of law, including family law.

This was recently highlighted by two specific changes that went into effect on July 1, 2017 in Tennessee. These changes were likely made in an attempt to help better ensure the law reflects legislative intent. This intent is generally to encourage parental involvement in the child's life, both with a physical and emotional presence as well as through financial support. The changes specifically address the rules regarding financial support and are as follows:

The complicated path to Grandma's house

Every family is different, and the reasons why families pull apart are complex and unique. During a divorce or separation, parents may become distracted by the trauma and stress of the situation, and it is common for grandparents to step in and provide a stable environment for the children until matters settle down.

If you are a grandparent who is caring for a grandchild, you may be wondering how the law protects your rights. What happens when the parents want the child back? How can you ensure that you will be able to maintain a relationship with your grandchild if your former son-in-law or daughter-in-law refuses to allow you to visit the child?

Don't let your assets waltz away after your Tennessee divorce

Anyone who has worked hard to provide a good life for his or her family deserves to know that his or her efforts were not in vain. Unfortunately, when a marriage breaks up it can be hard to predict what will happen to all the assets you've accumulated during a divorce. 

There are no guarantees in life, ever (except death and taxes, as we all know), but that doesn't mean one shouldn't try to make the best of a situation. If knowledge is power, then consider arming yourself with some information about property division in Tennessee before going to court, or working towards an agreement.

Protecting your rights under arrest

Certain situations in life are inherently stressful. For instance, job interviews, getting married and public speaking tend to raise people's stress levels somewhat. There's one thing that typically ranks high on most people's lists of stressful experiences in life, and that's getting arrested. If you've ever been pulled over in a traffic stop in Tennessee or were involved in some other incident that resulted in police showing up and asking questions, you likely understand how such situations cause anxiety levels to soar.

As with most urgent predicaments, it helps to remain calm and think clearly when faced with an imminent problem like getting arrested. First of all, just because you're charged with a crime doesn't necessarily mean you're going to jail. Understanding the criminal justice process and knowing your own rights ahead of time can help prevent anxiety should you wind up being told to place your hands behind your back so a police officer can apply handcuffs.

The significant impact of domestic assault violations

If you are facing allegations or charges of domestic assault, you may be overwhelmed with the potential criminal penalties you face. While this is a normal response, you must also consider how a conviction could affect other areas of your life. In addition to time behind bars and other penalties, the effect of these serious allegations can have a long-reaching impact into other personal and important matters.

Warrantless blood tests deemed unconstitutional

Most people have a casual familiarity with the experience of being pulled over by police and being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. If the experience isn't first hand, chances are they have seen representations of it on television. The accused may be asked to participate in a field sobriety test, which often involves some sort of balancing act. They might be asked to take a breathalyzer test that involves blowing into a contraption meant to measure blood alcohol content. They might also be asked to submit to a blood test.

Putting DUI charges to the test

Increasingly, more people that have been pulled over have come to realize their rights in refusing field sobriety tests, which are less than scientific. Those who have very good balance may be able to pass these tests while under the influence, and some might not be able to pass them even if they don't have a drop of alcohol in their system. The wording of the law in many states has been to make it a criminal act to refuse either breathalyzer or blood tests, but three men from North Dakota and Minnesota challenged this thinking, and set out to have their DUI convictions reversed because they believed that the tests they felt they were forced to submit to violated their 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. The North Dakotans' objections were to the blood test. The Minnesotan disputed the breathalyzer. While neither state level Supreme Court found fault with the tests, the U.S. Supreme Court had a different opinion and ruled that while the impact on personal privacy was not enough to declare breathalyzer tests unconstitutional, the same was not true for blood tests. As a result of the ruling, the North Dakotans were able to have their convictions reversed, while the Minnesotan did not.

What are the penalties for DUI in Tennessee?

The penalty for DUI in Tennessee can vary depending on the number of DUI convictions a person has received. If an accident is involved the penalties will be higher. In addition, penalties increase if the person charged with DUI has a passenger under age 18 or vehicle assault, vehicle homicide occurs.

When a person receives a DUI conviction in Tennessee they can receive jail time, fines and license revocation. Furthermore, an individual may be ordered by the court to attend a drug and alcohol program. The judge can order an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed at the person's expense as well. Additional costs and consequences may include bail, towing fees, attorney's fees, court costs, license reinstatement fees and higher insurance premiums.

Can I be charged with DUI while taking prescription medication?

It is becoming increasingly common that people charged with DUI were not drinking at all. In this day and age, more and more people are prescribed with prescription medications, particularly pain medications. They are taking this medication legally and as prescribed by their doctor and do not realized that if pulled over by a police officer, a DUI arrest could be the result.

Many wonder how this is possible, "I wasn't drinking!" However, in Tennessee, driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol. Under TN statute ยง 55-10-401, it is illegal for a person to be in "physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of any legal or illegal intoxicant." This includes any drug, controlled substance or alcohol that could impair the driver's ability to safely control the vehicle. It does not matter if the medication is being taken as directed by the prescribing doctor. What does matter, under the law, is the affect on the person taking the medication while driving.

Charged with a crime? How a lawyer can help

In order for justice to be done, a criminal defendant must have representation that can understand every variable that can come up in a case. This goes far beyond reading statutes and understanding court procedure. Every case can be different and a defendant representing him or herself may find their client at a great disadvantage.

People choose not to hire a defense attorney for various reasons, such as fear that a lawyer will make them look guilty, to avoid the costs of legal representation or the belief that a lawyer really can't do anything to help them. These deterrents are not true. One of the biggest mistakes a criminal defendant can make is not having a strong advocate to look out for his or her legal rights.

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