Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dismissing Criminal Charges

Hearing that your criminal charges are being dismissed can be exciting. But, that is not the end of the story. There is more you should know. Criminal charges can be dismissed in different ways and each form of dismissal carries different legal consequences.  While dismissal is often a primary goal in criminal defense, the type of dismissal granted by the court is as important as obtaining the dismissal itself. 

Dismissal of criminal charges is governed by Rule 48 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Rule 48 tells us that either the State (the prosecutor) or a court may dismiss charges.  The State may terminate a prosecution by filing a dismissal of the charges.  A court may dismiss charges if the State unnecessarily delays in bringing a defendant to trial or in presenting to a grand jury a charge against a defendant who has been held to answer to the trial court.  Let us look at the specific types of dismissal discussed in Rule 48.

1)         Dismissal – The State or the defendant may request dismissal.  The defendant may ask for dismissal on various grounds, including expiration of the relevant statute of limitations for prosecution, violation of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial, and the prohibition against double jeopardy.  In practice, however, dismissal of charges usually occurs as a result of agreement with the prosecution as part of settlement through the plea bargaining process. For example, the State may agree to dismiss certain charges if the defendant admits guilt to other charges.

Dismissal may also be conditioned upon the defendant paying restitution to an alleged victim.  A court’s order of dismissal may also specify whether the defendant or the State must pay the court costs associated with the case.  Again, allocation of costs may be an important component of a settlement agreement arrived at through plea bargaining. 

Certain legal terms become crucial in a dismissal. Some dismissals are “with prejudice” and some are “without prejudice.” The State may not again prosecute a charge that has been dismissed by the court “with prejudice” while a case that has been dismissed “without prejudice” may be brought again in certain instances.

2)         Not guilty – Also referred to as “acquittal,” this is the result of the fact-finder (usually a jury of one’s peers, but occasionally a judge) hearing evidence in a trial and concluding that State has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed the offense charged.  This results in termination of the charge.  The State may not again prosecute a charge upon which a verdict of not guilty has been delivered.

3)         Nolle prosequi – This is a Latin term meaning “prosecution will not be pursued.”  This form of dismissal occurs when the State formally declares on the record that it will not further prosecute the case either as to some of the charges or as to some of the defendants (or all together).  Nolle prosequi is appropriate where the State concludes that it does not have sufficient evidence to proceed with immediate prosecution of a criminal case but wishes to preserve its option to do so in the future.

After an indictment is issued, nolle prosequi can be granted only with permission of the court.  No conviction can be had on a charging instrument (e.g., arrest warrant or indictment) that is dismissed by nolle prosequi; instead, the State must open a new case.

4)         Dismissed as corrected – A court may grant this form of dismissal where the defendant can show the court that he or she has corrected the alleged violation.  This form of dismissal is common in cases involving motor vehicle related violations, such as:
-           vehicle equipment (“fix-it”) deficiencies;
-           failure to carry or present driver’s license;
-           failure to carry or present vehicle registration; and
-           failure to carry or present auto insurance.

How a charge is dismissed is, therefore, a detail that should not be overlooked while pursuing settlement of a criminal case.  For this reason, obtaining detailed advice from a skilled attorney is crucial. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, call the attorneys at Patton & Pittman to discuss your case. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Veterans Treatment Court

Every person who walks into the courtroom as a criminal defendant has a unique history. Regardless of guilt or innocence, society would benefit if the courts were able to approach each person with a custom tailored plan to address the person’s needs. We all know that the courts do not have the money or manpower to do this. In most cases, people are treated as cases, not people. The system’s approach is just that: systematic, not personal. This is not an indictment on the system. In most cases, people within the court system are doing the best that they can with limited resources.

The Montgomery County, Tennessee General Sessions Court is making great strides in addressing this problem. They have had a drug court for years and have recently added a Veterans Treatment Court. This court specializes in treatment for veterans. It is done in conjunction with the United States Army and other government agencies. The program does its best to personalize what is otherwise a very impersonal experience by pairing the criminally accused with mentors as well as incorporating both group and individual counseling in a positive, encouraging environment.

Here at Patton & Pittman, we have always believed in a personalized approach to every case. We believe in goal setting and following action plans created collectively with our clients. With that said, we know that Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) is not for every veteran that enters the court system. Because of the intensive nature and time constraints involved, we do not feel it is the best option for the majority of our military clients charged with a crime. However, in the right case, it is a very good option. In some cases, it is the best option.

If you are a veteran or active duty service member charged with a crime and have questions about VTC, we can help. On the date of this writing, the VTC published its monthly newsletter. One quarter of all new participants that entered the program last month were our clients. These are clients that we advised about the program and assisted in gaining admission. They still represent a very small portion of our military clientele. You may not be sure if VTC is the correct choice for you. Let the criminal defense attorneys at Patton & Pittman answer your questions and help guide you through this very important decision. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trends In The Law: Alcohol and Drug Monitoring

We have all heard the saying that trends come and go. Well, when it involves criminal laws and the Tennessee State Legislature, trends come, but they never seem to go. Take for example the ignition Interlock device (IID). This is a device that can be installed on a car that prevents its engine from starting until the driver proves that he is not under the influence of alcohol by blowing into the device. These were all the rage on The Hill (and nationally) a few years back with the legislature passing a slew of laws permitting or even requiring the use of IIDs. That trend has never left us and IID installers are making money hand-over-fist.

Well the makers, installers, and monitors of transdermal monitoring devices didn’t want the IID guys making all the money. So they hired lobbyists and have convinced law makers to start allowing or, in many cases requiring, persons accused or convicted of alcohol related crimes to wear and even pay for transdermal monitoring devices. A new trend has emerged and I don’t expect it to leave.

What is a transdermal monitoring device? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “[t]ransdermal alcohol monitoring is a technology that permits the detection of drinking by sensing alcohol that passes through the skin as it is eliminated from the body. As part of the overall monitoring system, alcohol measurements are sent from the transdermal monitoring device to officials who supervise the offender.” NHTSA also claims that transdermal monitoring devices have an advantage over systems involving periodic breath tests such as an IID due to their more constant rate of testing and ability to test outside of the vehicle, thus making it more difficult to avoid detection.

House Bill No. 1648
Persons convicted of an alcohol-related offense can now be required by the court to wear an electronic monitoring device with random alcohol testing, GPS monitoring, or any other monitoring device necessary to ensure compliance with probation conditions.

Senate Bill No. 2399
Like I said above, the transdermal monitoring guys didn’t want the IID folks making all of the money. The former interlock assistance fund has been officially renamed to the DUI Monitoring Fund to cover the costs of transdermal monitors as well as IIDs.

If you are noticing that the trend involves Big Brother intruding further into your personal life and even home, you are correct! These new laws come on the heels of last year’s Public Chapter No. 490 that deemed a court “shall” order transdermal monitoring as a condition of release on bail when a judge finds that a person is charged with certain alcohol related crimes and has a prior conviction.

In 2014 the general assembly passed Public Chapter No. 567 (Amelia’s Law). This law allows the Parole Board to make certain findings about a potential parolee’s underlying crime, i.e. whether or not alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor. If they find that it was, then the board can order that parole include the use of transdermal monitoring device. As a criminal defense attorney, my first thought was to enter a stipulation as part of a plea agreement that neither alcohol nor drugs were a contributing factor. However, in this case, the general assembly gave the Parole Board authority to look behind the curtain; the board gets to decide the facts of the crime regardless of what the court found or the government proved at trial. That means that someone other than a judge or jury gets to decide what the facts of the case were without any oversight or regulation.

Look for laws in the future that require the criminally accused, probationers, and parolees to wear patches that test for drugs. There are companies making these now to be put in use immediately. One example is the PharmChek Drug Patch. The manufacturer claims that this patch, worn on the skin, tests for cocaine, opiates, PCP, marijuana, and methamphetamines. They even claim that this patch can test for drug metabolites as well as the parent drug. If history is any sort of indicator (and it is), we will begin to see laws requiring the criminally accused, probationers, parolees, and possibly even juvenile court respondents to wear these patches.


The legal landscape is changing. This is why you will find more and more attorneys are limiting the focus of their practices to one or two very specific areas of the law. If you have been charged with an alcohol related or other offense, you may need the advice of an experienced attorney, especially one that stays current on the law. Call us at Patton & Pittman to discuss your case. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Patton & Pittman Hires New Associate

Patton & Pittman has hired a new associate.  The firm now has six attorneys who can provide full service representation in a wide range of criminal and civil matters.  Zachary L. Talbot is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law.  He will be practicing in both our criminal and general civil practice areas.  You can reach Zachary at

Monday, June 29, 2015

Patton & Pittman Moves to Larger Building

Due to our growth, Patton & Pittman has moved its offices to a larger building located at 101 North Third Street, at the corner of Franklin Street and Third Street in downtown Clarksville, TN.  This move will allow our firm to continue to grow to meet our clients' needs.  We invite everyone to stop by and see our new offices. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chris Clark Recognized As Top 40 Under 0 Criminal Defense Lawyers in Tennessee

Patton & Pittman would like to congratulate partner Chris Clark for being selected by the American Society of Legal Advocates as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the State of Tennessee for 2015.The American Society of Legal Advocates (ASLA) is an invitation-only legal organization comprised of the nation’s most skilled lawyers. It was founded with the sole purpose of identifying and promoting only the most outstanding legal talent throughout the country. Clark’s selection into ASLA is an honor for the firm. More about ASLA can be found on their website If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, don’t hesitate to contact attorney Chris Clark.

Chris Clark Recognized As One Of 10 Best DUI Attorneys In Tennessee Again

Patton & Pittman would like to congratulate partner Chris Clark for once again being named one of the 10 Best DUI attorneys in the State of Tennessee by the American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys for 2014. This is the second year in a row that Clark has been awarded this prestigious honor. Attorneys must be formally nominated by one of their peers. The nominee is then vetted by a review committee to make sure that the nominee meets all criteria including: a 10/10 in client satisfaction, be an industry leader, be thoroughly researched by the review committee, be AIDUIA Board of Regents approved, no client or bar complaints, and possess previous awards, associations, or publications. Once the nominee has been thoroughly vetted, the Board of Regents votes to select the top 10 list of best attorneys. Partner Chris Clark has been nominated and selected for the second year in a row. When asked about the award, Clark stated, “A DUI conviction can have lifelong implications. My clients come to me in a time of serious need. I owe it to them to provide the best representation I can. That includes educating them about the process and informing them along the way.” If you or someone you know is ever charged with DUI/DWI, you can guarantee that Chris Clark is among the best of the best in Tennessee to help you through the legal process

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Will a DUI Affect My Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?

            Navigating the legal system can be challenging, especially without the help of an attorney. Many areas of the law are murky at best and can be interpreted differently by different people. One area that seems to be especially confusing is the punishments for those convicted of driving under the influence and hold a commercial driver’s license.


If a person has a CDL and they are convicted of a DUI, first offense with a blood alcohol level of .04 or greater (other controlled substances included) while driving a commercial motor vehicle, their CDL will be suspended for one year.

If a person has a CDL and they are convicted of a DUI, second offense with a blood alcohol level of .04 or greater (other controlled substances included) while driving a commercial motor vehicle, their CDL will be suspended for life, or a period of at least 10 years.

            Tennessee Law is fairly clear about the punishments for DUI convictions while driving a commercial motor vehicle; however, there are “hidden” regulations within the law that many are surprised to learn. Even though Tennessee Law does not state that a person will lose their CDL if they are convicted of DUI while driving a personal motor vehicle, the Tennessee Department of Safety will suspend a CDL if a person is convicted of DUI while driving a personal motor vehicle. No exceptions. This is because the Code of Federal Regulations states that “CDL holders are, unlike most licensed passenger car drivers, professional drivers” and that “CDL drivers should not engage in risky, unsafe behavior while pursuing their profession—driving.”

            According to federal regulations, a loss of CDL will occur for those who are convicted of DUI with equal punishment, even if they are convicted while driving a personal motor vehicle. For example, if a CDL holder is convicted of DUI, first offense while driving their personal motor vehicle and lose their driver license for a period of one year, they will also lose their CDL for one year. The same is true for a DUI, second offense in a personal motor vehicle, which results in a lifetime suspension. Although the law is often times difficult to understand and interpret, the Tennessee Department of Safety outlines the consequences clearly in the Commercial Driver’s License Manual: “If you are convicted of a second violation in your personal vehicle or commercial motor vehicle, you will lose your CDL for life.” Understanding the law is especially important if your career is on the line and seeking experienced legal advice can be the difference between losing your CDL and saving your career.