While extremely unpopular, Tennessee County Mayors, (and many City Mayors), have the power, under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 58-2-110, to order masks be worn in public settings during a time of pandemic emergency. Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee has declared the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 58-2-107. For citizens, this means that criminal citations and arrests are possible for violating any ordinance requiring masks be worn in public. Nashville has recently began strictly enforcing their version of this policy. For public institutes such as natural gas utilities, these same emergency mandates bar the utility from disconnecting a person’s home utilities for non-payment of fees due during the time of emergency. See e.g., In Re: Emergency Petition of the Consumer Advocate Unit of the Financial Division of the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General, 2020 WL 4207282 (Tenn. Pub. Serv. Comm. 7/20/2020).

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020), (decided on July 9, 2020), saw that Court uphold a 200 year old treaty between the United States and Creek Indians that traces back to Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears. As a result of the McGirt decision, most of Eastern Oklahoma, including Tulsa, is now considered part of Indian Country. Contracts, land rights, and criminal cases in Eastern Oklahoma must be viewed, at least partially, through the scope of Federal Indian Law. By way of example, between July 9, 2020 and August 9, 2020, over 1000 criminal convictions by Oklahoma state courts have been overturned as a direct result of McGirt because state courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions of defendants on Indian lands. Other dormant, but valid, treaties can be expected to again see future honor as a result of McGirt. If the area of the country you live in was once Indian territory, (e.g., Chattanooga, Tennessee), look to see if there may be an old Indian treaty that may impact your case. If you wish to discuss a legal matter, such as how Native American bloodlines may impact a pending child custody case in Tennessee, call attorney Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 for a free consultation.

Attorneys still have the ability to contact inmates via Skype, Zoom, Face-time, or other video chats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, shut-ins at nursing homes can be contacted by attorneys because the legal profession is deemed an “essential service” by state and federal governments. Most of these contacts are actually easier for the attorney than a face-to-face visit because the attorney does not have to leave their office. The attorney instead merely sets up a video visit time with the nursing home, jail or prison and then uses a laptop computer or cell phone for the visit, telling the nursing home, jail or prison how long the visit is expected to take. For the inmates, these visits are confidential, so the attorney/client privilege is not violated. For shut-ins, it depends on the circumstances of the shut-in’s health or understanding. Recently, I’ve had incarcerated clients ask that I check on family members they have not spoken to recently because of COVID-19. I simply call the loved one, then send a note to the client on how the loved one is doing. Most attorneys will offer a similar courtesy, if asked. If you need an attorney, and your case is on appeal anywhere in Tennessee, or your civil or criminal case is in the Montgomery County, Tennessee area, call attorney Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299.

The COVID-19 pandemic may temporarily delay a lawsuit, but it does not stop a lawsuit. While courts may be closed for all but extraordinary or emergency circumstances, cases can still be filed, discovery continues, and mediation occurs. Be sure to check with your attorney because time deadlines may be running. Legal representation is one of the listed “essential services” that continue, even though most businesses are closed, so your attorney should be available, either in person, via Skype, or by phone. On April 22, 2020, I have the honor speaking to approximately 800 judges from across the U.S. (and in several other countries) about the judge’s ethical duty to move cases along during a pandemic as part of a National Judicial College country-wide podcast. If you wish to talk with an attorney about your case in the Montgomery County, Tennessee area, and you have not already retained a lawyer, call attorney Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299. #covid19 #lawyer #lawyers

A juvenile cases is a civil, not criminal proceeding. For practical purposes, the ramifications of a juvenile court adjudication of delinquency or unruly will not appear much different from an adult criminal conviction in the Minor’s immediate perception. Both carry potential probation and possible incarceration. Both can be a hinderance for future career decisions. The main difference is that a juvenile finding of delinquency or unruly is civil in nature, not criminal. Therefore, on job applications, if the application asks “Have you been convicted of a crime?” The answer is “No.” Since a juvenile case is not criminal in nature, a minor cannot be convicted of a crime in juvenile court. On the other hand, it is possible to transfer a juvenile proceeding to adult criminal court pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 37-1-134. If a transfer is ordered, the minor, (age 17 years 364 days or less), suddenly becomes an adult for trial purposes. This procedure is usually reserved for major crimes, such as murder or armed robbery, or for the minor who just won’t quit coming before the juvenile court. A transfer to adult court is generally considered a “last ditch option.” While a juvenile proceeding is designed to rehabilitate the misguided minor, an adult criminal proceeding is designed to protect society and punish the criminal offender. Simply put, the whole concept of what a court is suppose to do with the defendant changes drastically from juvenile court to adult criminal court.

When a juvenile is facing court proceedings, especially significant criminal charges, one should have an experienced advocate on their side. Attorney Greg Smith is a former juvenile court referee, (a type of judge), and he wrote a reference book on Tennessee juvenile law that is used throughout Tennessee. If you have a case in Montgomery County, Tennessee or the surrounding area, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 for a free consultation. Any juvenile court delinquency finding can see a minor in juvenile detention until their 19th birthday. A transferred juvenile case that is tried in adult court can carry significantly more time in jail or prison. Do not under-estimate the importance of legal representation in juvenile court.

When most people think of “DUI,” (Driving Under the Influence), they think solely of alcohol. While alcohol consumption is the most common basis for a DUI charge, it isn’t the only basis. Prescription drugs, even taken as directed, can lead to a DUI conviction. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-411(e). Any drug or stimulant that affects the Central Nervous System to the point that one’s ability to safely drive is impaired can be the justification for a DUI charge under Tenn. Code A.. sec. 55-10-401(a)(1). Likewise, one doesn’t have to be on a street or highway to be charged with DUI. Any place frequented by the public at large, such as a Wal-Mart parking lot or an apartment complex parking lot, qualifies under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-401(a). As a matter of fact, one doesn’t even have to be driving to get a DUI…only be in “physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle” while impaired. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55010-401(a). Marijuana or even excessive amounts of energy drinks such as Red Bull that hamper reaction time of the Central Nervous System may be possible DUI fodder, but the traditional consumption of alcohol is by far the most common charge and easiest to prove. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-401(a)(2) makes a blood alcohol concentration ( BAC) of .08% for normal drivers a presumption of intoxication. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-401(a)(3) sets the BAC level at .04% for commercial drivers. It is even possibly to be charged with “DUI By Consent” for allowing an intoxicated driver to use your car if the person consenting knows the driver is intoxicated. See State v. Phillips, 967 S.W.2d 826 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997) and Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-201.

DUIs in Tennessee are serious offenses, usually mandating some period in jail and loss of driving privileges. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 55-10-402(a). There are similar provisions against Boating Under the Influence. Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 69-9-217(a). Careers can be ended by a DUI, especially military careers. Don’t face a DUI alone! Talk with a lawyer.

If you have a DUI charge in the Clarksville, Montgomery County, Tennessee area, call The Law Office of Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299 or e-mail gregorydsmith.esq@gmail.com.

Presenting an appeal is different from presenting a trial because an appellate record is a “closed record.” This means the appellate record is similar to a photograph. The trial is real-time and moving. The appellate record is a snapshot of a moment of that flowing concept of real-time. At trial, a party can present live evidence, explain their intent, and answer follow-up questions. On appeal, just like a photograph, time stops and time does not change an answer given. No new evidence is offered. Nobody gets to explain their answer after the trial ends. One must look to the photograph taken, (the appellate record), to determine the contents of the photograph or “record.” While one may wish to add or subtract from the photograph; the photograph (record) is already taken, developed, printed, and remains as taken. Appellate records usually include trial transcripts, pleadings and arguments of counsel. One must show, just reviewing what is in the appellate record, that the trial court committed reversible error.

To show “reversible error,” one must show a mistake was made at trial, and that mistake adversely impacted on the outcome of the case. Error, without impact, is called “harmless error” and will not get a decision overturned. The Appellant, (the person appealing), must show both error and adverse impact for appellate relief. This task is very different from the tactics used by lawyers at trial. One needs an experienced appellate attorney for this function. Greg Smith has presented hundreds of appeals over thirty years. If you wish to discuss your appeal, and you have a Tennessee, federal or military appeals case, you may call The Law Office of Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299. Initial consultations are free.

The first, and most important point, before one changes legal counsel, is to carefully consider if that move is actually in your best interest? Is the change being done out of anger, panic, or logic? No attorney can promise an outcome in court. The attorney you currently have knows your case, has been paid, and previously earned your trust. Can your concern be eased by simply sitting down with the attorney and discussing your concern? That may be worth a try before paying another attorney a second retainer to take over your case or proceeding “pro se.” (Latin for “on your own”). Likewise, an appeal is usually considered a separate case, so once a case is completed, you may seek other counsel for an appeal.

If you find that an attorney change is necessary, there are two ways to do it. First, you can personally tell your attorney “You’re Fired.” That option is self-explanatory. Second, you can hire another attorney, and then the newly retained attorney contacts the previous attorney for a “substitution of counsel.” These two procedures are fairly common and won’t be as stressful or offensive to the original attorney as one might expect. Changing counsel does not automatically waive any outstanding attorney fee owed to the original attorney or obligate new counsel to negotiate a return of fee from the original counsel. Most of the time, the new attorney stays out of that discussion.

In the case of appointed counsel, simply hiring an attorney usually ends an appointed attorney’s duty to represent a client. If an indigent criminal court defendant wants to fire their appointed counsel, but can’t afford to hire counsel, the defendant can instruct appointed counsel to file a motion to withdraw or send the court clerk a pro se motion or letter asking for a different attorney and stating why the change in counsel is necessary. The Court is not required to give new counsel for indigents simply because a defendant does not like the appointed attorney. Indigents do not get to pick who a Court appoints as the defendant’s attorney. That being said, courts frequently grant a first request for a different appointed attorney filed by an indigent defendant. Repeated requests for new appointed counsel are less frequently granted.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding changing attorneys, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal,(the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith .

For many criminal matters, you have the right to have a trial. During your trial, you present factual evidence to refute your guilt. You may also question favorable witnesses and cross-examine unfavorable ones. If you do not like the outcome of your case and have important legal topics to address, you can probably file an appeal.

 In Tennessee, there are four different types of courts, including two trial courts and two appellate courts. If you need to appeal a criminal conviction, you likely want to ask an appellate court to consider your case. Eventually, you may be able to appeal your matter to the Tennessee Supreme Court. You should know, though, that appeals are vastly different from trials.

Tennessee criminal trials

 If prosecutors bring criminal charges against you, you are likely to have an opportunity to plead guilty. If you choose to assert your innocence, you may proceed to a criminal trial. In Tennessee, you may have either a jury trial or a judge one, called a bench trial. Before the trial starts, you have an opportunity to uncover facts through the discovery process. Then, you present factual evidence that proves you are innocent. The prosecutor, of course, attempts to prove your guilt.

Tennessee appellate trials

 If a judge or jury convicts you of a crime, you may have an opportunity to file an appeal. The appellate process, though, is not a rehashing of your initial trial. That is, you typically may not present new facts, examine witnesses or otherwise retry the case. Instead, you argue that there was some type of legal error during the trial that negatively affected the outcome of the case. Alternatively, you may argue that the trial court violated your rights in some way.

As you can see, criminal trials and appeals have some important differences. As such, the attorney who handled your trial may not have the skill set to appeal your case successfully. By understanding the fundamental differences between criminal trials and appeals, you can better plan for choosing the right legal counsel for your case.

If you are in Tennessee, federal appeals courts or the military appeals courts and have questions about rules regarding appeals, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith and his work in Federal Indian Law appeals in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith .

Any time you are stopped by Tennessee law enforcement officials, it is easy to become stressed and say or do things that are not helpful to your situation. One way to avoid this is to know your rights before the police show up at your door. If you are accused of a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union defines the rights you have that are intended to protect you from any wrongdoing by police.

If the police show up at your door, you do not want to invite them into your house. You can ask them to provide identification or speak to them through the door. The only time you must let them into your house is if a judicial officer signed a warrant that lists your home to be searched. If you are the subject of an arrest warrant or your name is on the document, they may also enter your home.

Just because an officer has a warrant, this does not mean that you must immediately open the door. You can ask them to either hold it up to your window or slide it under the door so you can examine it before letting the officers in. While an arrest warrant may have your name on it, a search warrant is different in that the officers can enter your house but can only search for the items and areas listed on the warrant.

Even when officers enter your home with a valid arrest or search warrant, you still have the right to remain silent. You do not have to speak to the officers or answer any of their questions while they conduct the search. Keep track of what they take, where they go and what they do as you silently observe them and wait for your chance to contact an attorney.

This is for educational purposes and is should not be interpreted as legal advice.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding criminal law, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit www.gsmithlawfirm.com. Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/tennessee-attorney-greg-smith.