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The alphabet of criminal offenses in Tennessee

A major concern to anyone facing a criminal defense situation is the level of the charges being levied against them. The level of charge -- from minor misdemeanors to major felonies -- is one factor that determines what the sentence will be if a person is convicted. In Tennessee, offenses range from Class C misdemeanors to capital crimes; the severity of possible sentences ranges as well.

Most offenses are punishable by a fine or jail time or both, depending on the specific crime and the court's decision in the matter. A Class C misdemeanor conviction generally means jail time of less than 30 days and a fine less than or equal to $50. For a Class B misdemeanor, maximum sentences go up to $500 fines and six months in jail; maximum sentences climb to almost 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines for Class A misdemeanors.

There are five levels of felonies in the state -- Class A through E. Class E felonies can involve sentences of one to six years in jail and fines up to $3,000. Class D felonies come with jail time ranging from two to 12 years and possible fines up to $5,000.

Class C felonies can garner fines up to $10,000 and jail time between three and 15 years. A Class B felony can mean paying a fine up to $25,000 and spending eight to 30 years in prison. For a Class A felony conviction, individuals can receive 15 to 60 years in jail and might pay fines as high as $50,000. A capital offense conviction could mean life in prison or the death penalty.

Because the consequences are so much greater for higher level felonies, understanding possible outcomes of a criminal case and whether negotiation is possible and desired is important. Working with a professional on your criminal defense can help you protect your future no matter where your charge falls on the misdemeanor and felony classification.

Source: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, "An Overview of Criminal Offenses under Tennessee Law," John M. Scheb II, accessed Aug. 14, 2015

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