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Lannom Williams Law Group - Providing criminal defense and civil trial practice for Wilson County, Tennessee

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Lebanon, TN 37087
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 The latest news reports tell us that Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student held by North Korea for 18 months, is now back in America surrounded by family and a team of doctors. It appears Mr. Warmbier has severe brain deterioration, possibly caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain. Mr. Warmbier was given a 15-year sentence for anti-government activities when it was alleged he took a sign with pro-government propaganda from a building as he was leaving the country.

 
Every person I have encountered is angered over the outrageous sentence, the mock trial and the mistreatment or lack of medical treatment that resulted in Mr. Warmbier's current condition. To be clear, the charge, the sentence, and his mistreatment were archaic and deplorable.

 
Yet, before we go to further, maybe we should examine what we do in America? We must remember that North Korea believes that its laws are appropriate, their trials fair enough, and their medical care is sufficient. Is the United States doing the same thing that we rightly accuse North Korea of doing?

 
At recent lawsuit in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, claims prisoners with serious mental illness are taken off their prescribed medicine, housed in inhumane sized cells, and housed with other seriously mentally ill inmates. If you deal with mental illness or family members with the mental illness, you are aware of what happens when medicines aren't taken or abruptly stopped - it is always a bad result.

 
Prisoners in many state prisoners are routinely raped and brutalized, generally by other inmates, due to lack of security (Terror in the Prisons: Rape and Why Society Condones It (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974). Stories of brutality and death from guards were headline news in Wilson County, Tennessee just a few years ago. Is this fair and deserved treatment of inmates or unfair like Mr. Warmbier's cruel treatment at the hands of the North Korean regime?

 
Outrageous sentences are routinely handed out in our country. Life sentences are handed down in America for "drug conspiracies". This is when a defendant is convicted but the defendant never touched or sometimes never received a dime from proceeds from a drug sale. Sentences are set based on the drugs others sold but that the Defendant never touched. I have seen a decade added to the sentence of a defendant who did one act to further one drug transaction. His sentence was increased by 10 years because those he helped moved a lot of drugs over and above just the one transaction he himself was involved in (the judge thought it didn’t need to be proven). The law is clear that the punishment for the crime will be handed down even though the defendant didn't even know what they did. Is this fair and just treatment of our citizens or is it arbitrary and unfair like the 15-year sentence for the theft of a government sign given to Mr. Warmbier by a North Korean court?

 
Decades are added to sentences and parole eligibility denied in Tennessee for drug offenses "in school zones" even when the person is driving down an interstate and their car is stopped in an area close to a school zone that is off the interstate. The same for $10 drug transactions near schools, even ones permanently closed, just because they are still owned by the school board. This occurs in the United States of America. A fair sentence or unfair like Mr. Warmbier's?

 
We have trials where the attorney is paid far less than 3 weeks’ pay for McDonald’s high school employee for the investigation, trial and sentencing in a murder and other serious trials. A fair trial or a sham like Mr. Warmbier's?

We should be outraged at what happened to Otto Warmbier. The U.S is not North Korea, yet are we as blind to our injustices as they are? Do we equally see our actions as right and justify them as North Korea did? Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals. Do those on the outside looking in judge us, or perhaps using us as the example we try to be to other governments, find us similar to North Korea or do they see much of a difference at all? A mentor of mine once told me, "you judge people by how they treat those that no one else cares about." (James Carter Martin, circa 1986).

 

My desire is for America to condemn North Korea while being able to say that we don’t do such unfair and unjust acts here, that we provide medical care, and don't have sham trials.


I wish it were true.


 

In the defense of those who cannot defend themselves,

Frank Lannom

Read More Our defense is frequently sought out when the State of Tennessee attempts to try children as adults for crimes, I have represented many juveniles facing delinquency charges in juvenile courts all over Middle Tennessee. Most people don't know that juveniles are subject to the same types of jails, incarceration, isolation and strip searches as adults. It was only in 2005 that the Supreme Court put an end to the death penalty for children in the United States.


The government often tries to transfer children from juvenile court to adult court where they can face decades or even life in prison. In defending these "transfer cases", it is crucial to completely investigate the history, mental status, physical health, and home life of the child in order to defend against the efforts to transfer the child to adult court.

Tennessee law attempts to mandate that certain crimes alleged against children be tried in adult court. This is a concept that fails to take into consideration any facts about the accused child. Any attempt to transfer our juvenile clients to the adult system is faced with a strong defense and investigation by our firm.  

Our society's attempts to judge crime with same severity whether committed by a child or adult can result in the cruelest of consequences. In 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States had to step in to prevent Florida's court system for sentencing a child to life without parole for a non-homicide attempt involving a burglary that did not result in a death {Graham v. Florida}. Children, like yours or mine, are not granted the rights of an adult in our society because they don't have the maturity or experience to make their own decisions. Under this reasoning, a child should not be given a life sentence for a decision they made as a child. But, over the last 7 years, the Supreme Court has had to stop states from this oppression and excessive cruelty to children. People who do not hesitate to organize protests and boycotts against companies for exploiting child labor stand aside and seem willing to accept and allow life or decades long sentences for chlldren.

Types of cases I have handled for juveniles accused of crimes include:
  • Underage drinking and/or DUI charges
  • Theft and burglary including shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Charges related to illegal drugs and prescription drugs
  • Alcohol possession
  • Assault or other violent acts or making terroristic threats
  • Traffic offenses
  • Juvenile sexual offenses
  • Trespassing
  • Truancy or delinquency
  • Bullying or harassment

If your family is under the gun of the prosecution of a child, give me a call. I have defended children accused of crimes for 25 years with the same zeal with which I defend adults.


In the Defense of the Citizens (even children) Accused,


Frank Lannom

 

Read More Tiger Woods said an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications was to blame for his early-morning DUI arrest near his Jupiter Island home in Florida on Monday. The former golf champion was found asleep behind of the wheel of his car, with his seatbelt on and the motor running. According to the arresting officer, Woods' speech was slurred and he was confused about where he was. He was arrested for DUI and released several hours later on his own recognizance. Woods said in a statement released by his spokesman that alcohol was not a factor in his arrest. Woods apparently willingly supplied urine and blood samples.

Similar to Florida, Tennessee DUI law makes it illegal to be in physical control of a vehicle if your ability to drive is influenced by ANY substance, whether alcohol, illegal drugs or legal prescriptions. It is illegal to drive on prescribed medications if they impair your ability, even if they are taken as prescribed.

The State may face a more challenging prosecution when only prescribed medications are found in a person's system, but it still often results arrest, incarceration and an expensive and hard fought battle to avoid conviction for the citizen accused.

Prescription drugs most often associated with DUI arrests include the painkillers Loritab, Hydrocodone, Percocet and similar drugs. Also making the list are benzodiazepines such as Xanax and sleep medications such as Ambien.

Just because it is a prescribed drug does not prevent a DUI arrest if your ability to drive is allegedly affected. Alway be safe and determine the effects of a drug might have on you before getting behind the wheel.

In Defense of the Citizen Accused,

Frank Lannom

 
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Memorial Day weekend means cookouts and swimming, but it also means increased patrol  by law enforcement for people operating vehicles under the influence. We have one published roadblock for tonight in our area: a sobriety checkpoint at Central Pike and John Hagar in Mt. Juliet. But every county, including Wilson, will have what is called "saturation patrol" all weekend through Monday at midnight. That means they will have called in all available staff for each shift and will be out looking for people driving under the influence. 

That includes the lakes in our area. Both Lebanon Police and the Wilson County Sheriff's Office have patrol boats and they will be out on Old Hickory along with Davidson County and Sumner County patrols and the TWRA patrols. TWRA and local law enforcement will be out on every waterway in Middle Tennessee this weekend. Anyone found operating a boat under the influence can be charged with a BUI (boating under the influence).

We hope you have a great long weekend and please be safe this weekend! Happy Memorial Day!

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Probation Violation is the single criminal charge that will most likely to result in incarceration and routinely the only charge for which a citizen will usually be held without bail. Probation violations are truly a local issue and especially dependent on the custom or practice of a particular county. Even within a county, probation violations are treated differently by judges of the various courts and that is the case in Wilson County, where the General Sessions Courts and the Criminal Courts treat violations differently. 

  
Most probation violations in the General Sessions Court are issued with bail as an option. This means that someone with a probation violation in those courts will likely be able to post bail immediately and go home. This is in stark contrast to probation violations issued from the Criminal Court Judges in the 15th Judicial District including Wilson, Trousdale, Macon, Smith, and Jackson Counties. Almost exclusively, these probation violations are issued with a "no bail" connotation that often means those charged will not be able to post bail. These judges are generally covering 5 counties and are not usually easily available to address bail for days or weeks, which greatly complicates the situation.

  
Effective lawyering includes getting a judge to grant bail on a probation violation from the Criminal Court. It is always vital to be able to post bail as this allows time for the person charged to begin rectifying mistakes they have allegedly made while under supervised probation. Even if bail is posted and the accused is released, it is important to understand that the courts do not have to prove you guilty of a violation beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution can simply prove the violation “likely occurred” and a sentence of up to 10 years can be implemented.

  
Probation violations take the freedom of more Tennesseans than any other criminal allegations. If you are facing a violation, please contact us as quickly as possible so that no time is lost in preparing your defense to keep your freedom.

 

In defense of the citizen accused,

 

Frank Lannom

 

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The month of April is "Distracted Driving" month - what does that mean for you as a Tennessee driver?

 

It is not illegal to use your hand held or hands free cell phone while driving in Tennessee if you are over the age of 18. It is illegal to use a cell phone or hands free device if you are under 18 and have either a learner's permit or intermediate license or if you are a bus driver with passengers onboard. It is not illegal if it is an emergency and, in the case of young drivers, calling parents can be considered an emergency. It is illegal in Tennessee for anyone to text while driving.

 

Tennessee is one of 41 states where it is illegal to text while you are driving. Your car has to actually be moving for you to break this law, so it's not illegal to send a text while you're at a stoplight or stopped in traffic. Texting while driving is considered a "primary offense" in Tennessee, which means the police officer can see you texting on your phone and pull you over for that reason alone. Once you are pulled over, you will be subject to any further infractions of Tennessee state law the officer might find, such as not having your seatbelt on, driving while intoxicated, or driving on a suspended license. If you are ticketed with only texting while driving, you will be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a $50 fine plus court costs (not to exceed $10). You will have 3 points charged against your driving record, which may increase your insurance premium at renewal. If you elect to go to court, you can request the option of taking a Safe Driving Course to prevent the points from being applied against your license.

 

If your child with a learner's permit or intermediate license is charged with talking on the phone or texting while driving, they will be charged with 6 points against their driving record (the limit is 12 in Tennessee before suspension) and there will be a mandatory 90 day waiting period before they can apply for their intermediate or unrestricted drivers license. If they have not had other offenses that have put them in traffic court, they should ask the Judge to allow them to take a driver's safety course to prevent the ticket from affecting their driving record and your insurance.

 

If you are texting while driving and a police officer sees you weaving out of your lane or rolling through a stop sign, you can be charged with Reckless Driving, which is still a Misdemeanor, but with substantially higher fines and court costs as well as more serious implications for your driving record. If you are a truck driver or drive a company car for your job, conviction of this offense could affect your ability to work and you should consider consulting an attorney.

If you are texting while driving and cause an accident, you could be charged with reckless endangerment. In addition to a serious criminal charge, this will cause you to be "at fault" for the accident and open the door to hefty civil reparations to the other driver involved.

 

If you are texting while driving and cause an accident in which someone dies, you could be charged with criminally negligent homicide. If convicted, you could face 1-6 years in jail, a fine up to $3,000, and court costs.

 

There are consequences to being convicted of crimes that aren't generally known and some are specific to a small group of people. Did you know that being convicted of a misdemeanor, no matter how small, means that you are automatically ineligible to apply for or receive state funded loans or grants? Or that if you have been convicted of any type of offense, you cannot register as an interior designer? There are several types of licensed professionals whose ability to obtain or keep their license can be restricted or taken away if they are convicted of even a minor criminal offense.

 

If you need help on any of the above, I and my associate attorneys and legal staff have had years of experience defending people charged with any and all types of crimes. We understand that even the smallest criminal charge on your record can affect your ability to pursue your career, manage your business, and support your family.

 

Let us know if we can help.

 

Frank Lannom

 

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We have all heard of the phrase innocent until proven guilty. It is a cornerstone of American law. We presume with this cornerstone that, if you are accused of crime, you will be permitted to post bail and remain free until and if you are convicted by the government.

Our laws now permit many charged with a drug offense to be held without the right to post bond unless and until you are able to get into court to prove your money is legal. This means you cannot use your own money to post bail for a loved one without permission of the government or a judge. It can take weeks to get in front of that judge, while the citizen accused sits in jail without bail. This is yet another glaring example of how our belief that we are people free from government sanctions unless we are proven guilty of a crime is being lost as society yields its freedoms to the government. The State calls the hearing a Source Hearing, a hearing where the government decides if your money is legal. The State doesn't have to prove that your money is ill gotten gain, you have to prove your money is valid.

Until this law is changed, I and my staff will work hard and fast to prepare the documents to show the funds are appropriate to present to the prosecutor's office to get you or your loved one out on bail as quickly as possible.

In defense of the citizen accused,

Frank Lannom

Read More It’s a question that no parent should ever have to ask themselves but, sadly, many parents are forced to – “Should I post bail when my child is addicted to drugs?”.

Opiate and benzodiazepines addictions are common today. Opiates are primarily pain killers (including Oxycontin and heroin) and a common benzodiazepine is Xanax. It is possible that one of your family or friends may use these drugs with or without a prescription. For many years, parents have seen their adult addicted child's arrest as a chance for them to get clean. Jail may have been the only untried option to break addiction and occasionally it just might work.

Today, we live in a different time with new stronger drugs and not posting bail in order to get the child "cleaned up" could be a death sentence.

When Tyler Tabor was booked in a jail outside Denver in 2015, he told a screening nurse that he was a daily heroin user and had a prescription for Xanax. A friendly 25-year-old with a wife and a son in kindergarten, Tabor had started using opioids after he injured his back on the job. When he was arrested on two minor warrants, his parents decided not to pay his $300 bail, believing he would be safer in jail and off heroin.

But Tyler died in jail three days later. The coroner’s report said the cause of death was dehydration and the alleged cause of dehydration was drug withdrawal. Dying from opiate withdrawal outside of jail is exceedingly rare because, with few exceptions, it is so preventable. Dehydration, a withdrawal symptom that kills, can be treated with an IV. It’s nearly unheard of to withdraw from opioids without slowly tapering off or having emergency medical care, according to Kevin Fiscella. Mr. Fiscella is an addiction specialist who sits on the board of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), which accredits correctional health services. “What’s happening in jails, it’s kind of a natural experiment to see what happens,” he says. “And in fact, some people do die. When a user quits opioids cold turkey, the body quickly starts to experience the opposite effects of the original drug, resulting in a rarely fatal but often tortuous withdrawal process that can persist for days or weeks. Where opioids reduce pain, withdrawal makes the body hypersensitive to it. Opioids induce euphoria; withdrawal feels like the world is going to end. Opioids cause constipation; withdrawal causes diarrhea and vomiting. If a person going through withdrawal can’t keep fluids down and is not given an IV, he or she can succumb to dehydration." [Lurie, Mother Jones Online, Feb 2017]

In my experience, jails will not give any opiates or benzodiazepines to addicted inmates during withdrawal. It is easier for them to have a blanket policy than deal with independent medical care for inmates. This is could well be a life or death decision. Withdrawal from opiates cause symptoms that result in death and sudden withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause seizures that can kill.

I meet with as many parents as I do people incarcerated. I hate to see the pain of addiction and I share their desire for the child to live a good life without addiction. I see the relief of parents who worry every night whether their child is going to die of an overdose or get killed on the street. It’s easy to see how they would feel their child is safer in jail and think maybe they can rest for a few days without worry. Yet, when strong drugs are involved, there is a lot of danger in allowing a "cold turkey" withdrawal.

I have lost to many clients in recent years to drug addiction and now I fear I will lose more to withdrawal. These are good people, people just like you and me, except they are addicted to drugs. It’s time the penal system more adequately and humanely deals with addiction.

Humane. That is the word we should remember when we think about Taylor. We should think it when we read the last words 18-year-old Tori Herr said to her Mom before she died of dehydration in jail during her withdrawal, “I just want something to drink”. She had been arrested for shoplifting. Or when we envision David Stojcevski, a 32-year-old who died in the floor of his jail cell, convulsing and shivering, after 16 days of detoxing and losing over 50 pounds. David was in jail for not being able to pay a careless driving fine.

Taylor, Tori and David are just a few of the young people who died lonely and violently painful deaths in the penal system. They were put there for minor infractions of the law and left there by families who loved them and who thought they were doing the right thing for them.

Although, with more withdrawal deaths happening in jails across the United States, a strong argument to post bail and get professional or at least attentive care for our loved ones in these situations is easy to make. 

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I am an attorney.

This means I have the legal right to defend my client’s positions in a courtroom. Sometimes that means I undertake a position that the public disapproves of from time to time. In addition to the public, powerful people can and do disapprove of the citizens I represent. Powerful people who, if they choose to do so, had the ability to make my professional life difficult in many ways.

Many years ago, I faced this dilemma. I had to decide if I would accept a case in opposition to powerful people within the court system. It was a serious matter and the repercussions could have been critical enough to alter the course of my career. But I had a family to feed and, more importantly, everyone in our country is entitled to counsel in court. This is a right so fundamental that our Founders made it the 6th Amendment in the United States Constitution.

The decision I made on that day, now about 20 years ago, was that I would never turn down a client because it might displease a person in power if I took the case. I resolved to take those cases that no one else would. I determined to defend my clients with dignity and professionalism. I determined to be a gentleman in all aspects of the defense but to never alter my unwavering defense of my client.

Somedays it was a tough decision. In one instance a young man brought a case to me and told me no one would defend him because the alleged victim was literally in a position of power in the court system in which he would be prosecuted. I stopped and thought about the repercussions and remembered my previous decision. I took the case and defended my client while conducting myself with professionalism and acting as a gentleman. The case ended successfully for my client. The person in power remained in power after the case. However, instead of seeking retribution against me, they have since upon me twice to defend their interests, once in professional defense of their job and once in defense of their own family. I took this case as well, all the while defending them with zeal and conducting myself as a professional. That decision still helps my practice today. Those I have opposed have been my biggest source of referrals for their friends and family. You see, no one respects a coward or someone who will give in to the slightest pressure.

In a world where clothing lines are dropped from stores because someone complains about a political position, when businesses refuse to provide services to those of whom they disapprove, or when people refuse to perform their job in protest, I respectfully have a suggestion.

Do your job.

Do your job well and act professionally to your client or customer, whether you agree with them or not. Treat those who oppose you for doing your job with respect - yet continue to do your job. One day, you may be blessed as I have been and those who once opposed you will respect what you do and how you do it. They will come to you because you do your job and conduct yourself as a professional. They will come to you because you are kind and treated them with respect as much as you did those to whom they were opposed.

People aren't stupid. If you refuse to "go to bat" for someone when public or political pressure is applied, the public or those in political power won't trust you to have their back if they need you. Once you surrender your profession to perceived public opinion then YOU are the slave of public opinion and will have the respect of no one. This is a simple position, but one that has served me well for over 20 years. 

In Defense of the Citizen Accused,

Frank Lannom



 

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dui, domestic, assault, addiction, drugs, attorney, lawyerI usually spend my first meeting with a criminal defense client without so much as a pen or paper in hand. I do nothing but listen intently and gently ask questions while probing the issues that led to my client being charged with a crime. An attorney may be trained in the law, but the best criminal defense lawyers are good listeners who can identify with their client's lives and recognize the problems (even if the client doesn't) that have resulted in their current state of criminal charges. When the experienced lawyer listens, they will often find that mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction (and sometimes a combination of both), surfaces as the reason for the visit to their office.

The inexperienced criminal defense lawyer, or the over-burdened and understaffed public defender, either won't take the time or doesn't have the time to learn the root of the client’s problem. Failing to learn the root cause of why the person is charged with a crime can mean the difference between freedom and incarceration and a clean record versus a lifetime as convicted felon.

Prosecutors and Judges are real people with real responsibilities, just like the rest of us. They have a lot of cases and will often be reasonable if given a compelling reason to avoid trying a case. The key is simple, if you can find a root cause of a criminal act, you can remove the cause and reduce the chance of a crime ever occurring again. By doing this, I give my client the best chance at good results and good lives.

A good lawyer will spend enough time with their client to learn that addiction is the root cause of many crimes. Once the cause is found, I and my team of paralegals and investigators, can assist the client in addressing the addiction. By helping my client to identify and complete programs provided by addiction specialists in the medical field, attend in-patient and/or out-patient treatment, attain certified completion of treatment (resulting in clean drug screens), I can then show the prosecutor, the judge, and often even the victim that, if the client is allowed to stay out of jail, they don't have to worry about them committing other crimes. Why? Because we have identified and removed the fundamental cause of the client’s alleged criminal behavior.

Mental illness often leads clients to my office with charges related to violence. When people are suffering from untreated mental illness, crimes such as assault, domestic violence, fights with business partners, and sometimes the use of firearms can result. The untreated illness deprives the person of their sense of reason which results in acting out violently which leads to criminal charges. Very often, the victims are family members who knew the client before the onset of the illness. The victims may even desire a positive result for my client but are afraid that, if the illness continues untreated, more violence will occur. 

A client's undiagnosed and/or untreated mental illness must be addressed and only through years of experience can a criminal defense lawyer recognize the signs of mental illness. The client seldom recognize their own need for treatment. I recently had a client who was a young woman struggling with untreated mental illness that resulted in her being charged with several crimes across several counties. You can read about my positive case result for her here. With time and patience, I can often get my clients to qualified therapists who can diagnose the problem. With a diagnosis, I can show the client, the victim, the judge, and the prosecutor that the cause is treatable. With treatment, the fear of future crimes can be greatly diminished. I then move from the diagnosis to a specific plan of treatment. Obligating my client through the court to continued participation in treatment and their following the treatment plans and staying on prescribed medication plans, increases the likelihood of continued treatment. The victims and attorneys for the state now have a concrete plan in place to give the client the help and treatment they need which greatly reduces the chance of future violence. All judges have the leverage to force the defendant to hold to their treatment plans. 

The result is often an improvement in my client’s life and a positive effect on their case. It is not uncommon for me to obtain dismissal of the crimes in their entirety or a significant reduction in the severity of the charges once the client completes the program of treatment. My method has been successfully applied to issues of mental illness and addiction with equally positive results.

This all comes down to the fact that I take the time to learn the root cause of the crime that brings the client to me seeking help. A solid plan to address and correct the problems leads to lessened sentences, dismissal of criminal charges, and a future that is unaffected by criminal convictions. Time spent with a client by an experienced attorney who understand a client’s true issues is vital to a good defense. If you are charged with a crime, I hope you will give me the chance to help you. But, no matter which attorney you choose, please choose an experienced criminal attorney who asks about your life, your circumstances, and the facts that lead you to them. The time a skilled professional spends talking to you about your life can be the difference in the quality and outcome of the rest of your life.

Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because we mean it when we say we’re here to help you. Call us at (615) 444-3995 to schedule your confidential consultation.

In Defense of the Citizen Accused,

Frank Lannom

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Frank Lannom, Criminal Defense AttorneySeveral new laws took effect in Tennessee on January 1st. One prominent change in the law is that those convicted of Vehicular Homicide by Intoxication cannot receive probation. Common belief might be that such a law is supported by most all citizens and one in which there is little dispute, but that is not the case.

For many years our state has depended upon elected judges and District Attorneys to decide what cases and which individuals were appropriate for probation, primarily for any offense for the which the sentence is 10 years or less. The differences in the nature of an offense, the level of culpability, and other factors can be taken into effect by criminal defense lawyers proposing the positive aspects of their clients and their cases. Yet politicians seemingly cannot trust anyone, judges, juries or prosecutors with decision making without the politician injecting their "wisdom" to dictate the outcome of cases that they know nothing about. In most instances, politicians pass ill informed laws with minimum mandatory sentences whose substance creates injustice, just to make themselves look good. Such is the case with this law.

In many jurisdictions, judges and prosecutors justifiably treated cases more harshly when an impaired driver caused a death as a result of their impairment upon innocent people on the roadway. Conversely, the same law covered best friends, both out on a night of drinking, who voluntarily get into the same vehicle and the resulting crash kills the passenger. So often these cases, which I have handled, involved young people whose best friend or sibling died as a result of both of their poor judgments. In the latter cases, often some form of probation was found to be appropriate, sometimes after a 6 month or one year sentence in county jail, as part of a lifetime of punishment for the tragedy. Often even the family of the deceased desired no punishment for the poor joint decision that resulted in the tragedy. Yet still, our state legislature presumes to know best by passing a law with the same result in both kinds of cases. This takes all decision making out the hands of judges who can weigh all the facts. Our government is founded on the brilliant base of three pillars of power, each separate and balancing the other so as to not allow the tyranny of any one pillar. In this instance, the Legislative branch is continually grabbing power away from the Judicial branch and that is surely not what our Founders intended.

As always, injustice will occur when facts aren't allowed to effect sentences and the broad brush of the legislature, who must dictate, will create more injustice.

In Defense of the Citizen Accused,

Frank Lannom

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Grundy county Tennessee is taking a controversial step to allegations of domestic assault.

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum is praising a bill that assumes guilt for anyone accused of domestic violence, while it keeps the poor who are accused and can't afford bail jailed before trial. Sheriff Shrum says he saw a problem and "started looking at the use of GPS monitoring to ensure victim safety in Grundy County".

For the past 18 months, every suspect accused of domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault or stalking in Grundy County has been required to wear a GPS monitor as part of their bond conditions. This statement of "every person accused" clarifies that proof of guilty isn't required. 

Offenders are monitored by
Tennessee Recovery and Monitoring, a private company that also provides the victims with a victim beacon in order to keep track of how close the alleged offender and alleged victim are to each other. If either of them get within a pre-determined range of each other, the monitoring company and the victim are notified using text and email.

In Grundy County, offenders must pay $10 per day for the device to stay out of jail while they wait for their case to be heard. I have found in my practice of defending those charged with domestic assault that, in most instances, there is also an upfront fee that must be paid for installation of any monitoring device.

If you have a bond that’s set at $50,000 and you can’t raise the cash, you sit in jail,” Hardaway said. “If you can’t afford the money to pay for this monitor, you ought to sit in jail.”

The Sheriff and other lawmakers want this law mandatory across the state. I must admit have encountered serious cases where the use of the device aided everyone involved and allowed a more reasonable bond to be put in place. Indeed, Sheriff Shrum states that repeat offenses are down in Grundy County.

However, we Americans must use caution when considering expansive far reaching laws such as this. Making such a law mandatory  takes away Judges' discretion to prevent the accused from staying in jail because they are poor or for relief when the allegations are minor or questionable in nature. The Sheriff fails to take into account how often domestic violence cases are dismissed completely and how many innocent people are arrested or accused. Most every police officer will tell you how often they feel compelled to make an arrest when the proof is slim or it is clearly a case of mutual combat.

My recent domestic assault cases include two brothers fist fighting in their father's garage and a spouse on heroin who accused her husband of threatening her when he tried to stop her from getting more drugs. I have represented many similar cases where the Sheriff's program would be patently unfair to the innocent accused. In 50% or more of the cases I handle, the accuser doesn't even show for court until required. The accusers often have already cleared out the alleged offender's home of valuables and solidifying the children's custody while the one accused sits in jail. 

Even victim's rights advocates have serious concerns about this law. In December of 2015, Bridges Domestic Violence Center executive director Linda Crockett Jackson told Channel 4 she's concerned the bill could be "too harsh a punishment for someone not convicted."

At some point, society will forfeit all rights of the accused if it fails to recognize that punishing people with broad mandates before a conviction is uncontitutional and results in injustice.

I am glad I don't live in Grundy County

In defense of the citizen accused,

Frank Lannom


LANNOM & WILLIAMS
137 Public Square Lebanon, TN 37087
Via Phone: (615) 444-2900 Via Facsimile: (615) 444-6516 Toll Free: (866) 820-4457

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