Tennessee Criminal Charges

It is not easy to find out what you can expect for a penalty for a criminal charge in Tennessee. The factors that go into this are significant. An experienced defense attorney who knows Tennessee criminal laws and courts will be able to give you a fair assessment of what you are up against. Contact us for a consultation.

Crime Classifications – Felony vs Misdemeanor Charges

The basic classification of crime is the misdemeanor and felony classification. In addition, felonies and misdemeanors are classified and divided further into different classes. These crime classes are a huge factor in determining a sentence for any particular offense.

A misdemeanor is typically an offense punishable by less than one year in county jail.

A felony, on the other hand carries a potential sentence greater than one year in a state prison as well as restrictions after your release. These restrictions can include being prohibited from owning firearms and even losing the right to vote.

Tennessee further breaks down misdemeanors and felonies into several smaller categories, fine tuning the classifications and making it easier to apply sentencing guidelines.

Sentencing guidelines

Tennessee separates felonies into 5 classifications. The state also categorizes offenders into 5 categories based on prior criminal convictions. Essentially, if you have an extensive criminal history you will potentially face a much harsher sentence.

Prior Convictions?

Felony Class?


0 priors

Standard (Range 1)

0-1 prior

Multiple (Range II)

2-4 priors

Persistent (Range III)

5+ priors



(15-60 years)

13.5 years






(8-30 years)







(3-15 years)







(2-12 years)







(1-6 years)






*To be considered a “career” offender your prior convictions must meet certain complicated criteria. You attorney can assist you in assessing your criminal history to determine which range your potential sentence will fall under.

Felony Fines

The fines you face with a felony conviction are:

Class A Felony: Up to $50,000

Class B Felony: Up to $25,000

Class C Felony: Up to $10,000

Class D Felony: Up to $5,000

Class E Felony: Up to $3,000

Misdemeanors are also categorized further into 3 classes:

Class A Misdemeanors: punishable by less than one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.

Class B Misdemeanors: punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $500.

Class C Misdemeanors: punishable by up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $50.

Mitigating/Aggravating Circumstances

When the judge is presented with a sentencing range to choose from, she will consider the pre-sentence investigation as well as any mitigating or aggravating circumstances surrounding your offense.

Mitigating circumstances may lessen your sentence and may include the fact that you weren’t the primary defendant in the case or that the offense was unintentional.

Aggravating circumstances will increase your sentence and can include particularly bad aspects of the offense or factors that make the crime worse in some way.


Depending on your charge, you may be eligible to serve your sentence in the community while under supervision. Probation allows for a portion of your sentence to be suspended while you continue your life in the community.

Probation terms are determined by the courts and can be adjusted to fit your specific needs. You may be required to submit to random drug tests, abide by a curfew, or attend classes. Probation ranges from extremely lenient to extremely structured.

Your supervising probation officer will report back to the courts on your success while on probation. If you violate the terms of probation, you may be required to go back to court and serve the entire sentence that was previously suspended.

We can increase your chances of being sentenced to probation rather than active time. We can also assist you if you are facing probation violations and are in fear that your probation will be revoked.

Tennessee Sentencing Procedures

Whether you pled guilty or were found guilty through trial, your sentencing date can provide some closure. This is when the fear of the unknown comes to light and you will know for certain the penalties you will have to face.

Although in rare misdemeanor offenses you may be sentenced on the same day, typically the judge will set a later date for your sentencing. This is done to ensure the sentencing decision is a well informed one.

Pre-sentence Investigation

One of the ways the judge will make an informed sentencing decision is through the use of a pre-sentence report. This report is completed by a Tennessee probation officer who will examine many parts of your life.

The investigating officer may interview you, your family, employer, or victims.  There is a wide range of information contained within a pre-sentence report.

The report may include:

  • Family history
  • Psychological evaluation or history
  • Connections in the community
  • Employment history
  • Criminal history
  • Victim statements
  • Circumstances of the offense

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the report will include a sentencing recommendation from the investigating officer. The experienced probation officer may tell the judge that you are a good candidate for community supervision (like probation) or he may tell the judge that your sentence would be best served in prison.

While the judge does not have to follow the recommendation from the officer, she will take it into consideration.

If you are accused of any criminal charge in Tennessee, please contact us for help.

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