Mark Scruggs, Trial Attorney
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Nashville Criminal Defense Blog

Evidence and your criminal trial

Investigators may have told you that the evidence against you is overwhelming. They may have fingerprints, shoe prints, bloodstains or DNA that supposedly links you to the crime. They may tell you these things -- even show you a weapon or a lab report -- to convince you to confess or reveal more information about the alleged crime.

However, this isn't TV. Before any of that evidence appears before a jury, it must go through its own trial of sorts. You may be relieved to know that every piece of evidence police claim to have against you may not appear before a jury. There are rules investigators and prosecutors must follow concerning evidence, and these rules are to protect your rights.

Facing heroin-related charge? A strong criminal defense may help

Concerns have been raised about whether the drug laws in Tennessee, including those governing heroin-related crimes, are too strict. However, the laws are still on the books, and the reality is that if you face a drug crime accusation in the state, you can expect stiff penalties if a conviction happens in your case.

Fortunately, just because you face a heroin-related charge does not mean you are immediately guilty. Instead, the government has to prove your charge beyond a reasonable doubt before you can face a conviction, which leads to time behind bars and fines for both misdemeanors and felonies. The penalties might range from as few as six months in prison to 60 years behind bars, with fines potentially reaching half a million dollars.

Tennessee expands good-faith exceptions to search warrants

When police arrived at your home with a search warrant, you may have had little time or attention to look it over carefully. Even if you did read the warrant, would you have understood the legal jargon or known if the warrant was valid? Chances are you skimmed the document looking for details about what the officers expected to find.

Search warrants are carefully regulated documents, which judges issue within the confines of laws that legislators passed to protect your rights. Unless you grant permission, an officer cannot come into your home to search without a warrant, and a judge will not issue a warrant unless he or she is convinced there is probable cause. 

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Drug abuse and heredity

What makes you choose a particular path in life while someone else who grew up and works in the same Tennessee area as you chooses another? It would likely take a long time to explore possible answers to that question. However, studies show that heredity often has a lot to do with personality, propensity toward certain diseases, and even the likelihood of certain types of behavior. If your family seems to have a few members who struggle with drug addiction, you may want to beware the risks.

Using drugs is definitely no small matter, whether they are prescription medications or illegal drugs bought on the street. Many prescription drugs (such as those provided to alleviate chronic pain or ease symptoms of other conditions) are strong narcotics that are extremely addictive. If your family is prone to drug addiction, you may want to steer clear of such drugs. There are physical, mental and sometimes even legal repercussions involved in misuse of drugs of any kind.

Understanding your rights when facing a homicide charge

If you have been accused of committing a homicide, you may naturally be fearful of your fate. This includes being afraid of what will happen to your reputation as a result of your homicide charge, as well as fearing the potential loss of your freedom.

Fortunately, just because you face a charge of homicide in Tennessee does not mean you are immediately guilty of committing a crime. Instead, prosecutors must prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction can happen. In addition, not all homicides violate criminal laws.

Arm yourself with information to trigger strong criminal defense

Whether you've lived in Tennessee all your life, or have just recently migrated here, you're probably somewhat aware of state laws regarding various topics. Perhaps police have pulled you over a time or two for driving a few miles over a posted speed limit or driving with a broken taillight. If your car has ever drifted a bit too close to the yellow line, you may have wound up in a traffic stop on suspicion of drunk driving.

After submitting to a Breathalyzer and a few field sobriety tests, you may have been able to resolve your situation. The experience likely made you at least vaguely familiar with the criminal justice system. It can be a real game-changer, however, if police charge you with a serious offense.

Planning your defense against conspiracy charges

A classic movie tells the story of two men who meet on a train and begin discussing their personal burdens. One man wants to divorce his wife, and the other man hates his father. The two agree that the best plan is for each to do away with the other's problem. However, the married man thinks it's all talk until his wife ends up dead.

If you have seen the movie, you remember that the married man finds himself swept up in a web of murder and conspiracy, trying to prove his innocence because, after all, he did agree to the plan. If you are currently facing charges of conspiracy, you may understand the character's feelings of frustration and panic.

What factors may impact sentencing in a drug-related case?

When facing a legal ordeal, you may worry about the potential outcomes of your case. Because your situation involves serious drug charges, you may feel particularly concerned about what type of sentencing could come about in the event that the court convicts you of the crime of which you have been accused. Unfortunately, no exact punishment blankets all drug-related cases, and as a result, you could face a range of repercussions.

Though you undoubtedly hope that your criminal defense will allow you to avoid a conviction, you may still wish to prepare for and understand the possible negative outcomes as well. Numerous factors could play a role in the determination of any consequences that may result from your case.

DNA is not your judge and jury

Who doesn't love a good crime show? The modern Sherlock Holmes uses the amazing advances in forensics and technology to track down the most unlikely suspects and convict them without questioning the validity of the evidence. In many cases, the deciding factor in these fictional dramas is DNA evidence.

While the use of DNA as a crime fighting tool has certainly revolutionized investigative police work, its portrayal on television as irrefutable proof of someone's guilt has potentially tainted the opinions of juries. In truth, the analysis of DNA evidence may not be so trustworthy.

Drug raids: How does the Fourth Amendment protect you?

Let's say you and a few friends are hanging out at your home watching a major sports event on TV. Suddenly, a loud knock at the door startles everyone in the room, and as you approach the entrance to your home, you notice several people who appear to be uniformed Tennessee police officers outside your window. You crack open the door and the official-looking people show you badges and ask if they can come in and have a look around.

Although you're now convinced they are legitimate law enforcement agents, you aren't sure what to do next. One of the officers asks you to confirm your identity, which you do. Beyond that, you aren't sure whether you're required to let them in or if you can refuse. Clarifying your rights ahead of time may help you make informed decisions when problems arise.


Mark Scruggs, Trial Attorney
95 White Bridge Rd. Ste 508
Nashville, TN 37205

Phone: 615-988-4128
Fax: 615-356-6954
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