In 2005, the State of Tennessee passed a law requiring persons to pay an excise tax on illegal substances. The Tennessee unauthorized substance tax, or “drug tax” or “crack tax”, applies to controlled substances like marijuana and cocaine, and also illicit alcoholic beverages like moonshine. It allows someone to anonymously purchase stamps in person from the Department of Revenue based on the type and amount of the substance ($3.50 for a gram of marijuana, $50 for a gram of cocaine, etc.) with the understanding that doing so cannot be used against them in a criminal court. Possessing drugs is still illegal – the tax works completely outside the criminal justice system. A stamp cannot provide immunity from criminal prosecution, and a conviction of possession isn’t required for the Department of Revenue to assess the penalties.

Opponents to the tax say allowing authorities to levy illegal drugs allows officials to bully people not convicted of crimes into paying thousands of dollars. The opponents of the Tennessee Illegal Substance Tax, and there are many, include a wide variety of groups.

In July, 2006, Chancellor Richard Dinkins ruled that the tax was unconstitutional stating that the tax violates an individual’s right against self-incrimination and to due process.

drug%20stamp.JPG

Despite this fact, the Tennessee Department of Revenue continues to attempt to collect these taxes. One of the biggest targets for these tax collectors are Bonnaroo concert goers.
Continue reading

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (Bonnaroo, Rooville, BonRoo, Broo, roo or the ‘Roo for short) is a four day annual music festival by Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment, first held in 2002. The festival is held on a 700 acre (2.4 km²) farm in Manchester, Tennessee, 60 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. The main attractions of the festival are the multiple stages of live music, featuring mostly jam bands, but also including hip hop, jazz, americana, bluegrass, country music, folk, gospel, reggae, electronica, and other alternative music. The festival features craftsmen and artisans selling unique products, food and drink vendors, and many other activities put on various sponsors.

050612-11-Bonnaroo.jpg

On January 10, 2007, Bonnaroo organizers Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment purchased a major portion of the site where the annual music festival is held. The purchase of 530 acres encompassed all of the performance areas and much of the camping and parking area used for the annual festival; the festival will continue to lease another 250 acres that currently serve as additional parking and camping.

Tennessee Law Enforcement Officers across the state are well aware that a large number of out of state visitors make the trek to Manchester for this annual event. Unfortunately, law enforcement in some parts of the state tend to be a bit more “aggressive” with these out of state visitors than they might normally. They often believe that Bonnaroo concert goers carry a multitude of illegal substances with them when they visit the show. There are several things concert goers should remember should they be pulled over by one of these law enforcement officers.
Continue reading

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Illinois v. Caballes that when a trained drug dog sniffs a persons automobile, there is no search. As a result, no constitutional violation occurs. This is the case even if the police have absolutely no reason to suspect you may be carrying illegal contraband whatsoever.

617050_police_dogs.jpg

The majority reasoned that a dog’s sniffing is not really a “search” because it detects only contraband, and therefore does not compromise the privacy of someone who has nothing to hide. Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg both dissented strongly, warning that this decision could lead to “suspicionless and indiscriminate sweeps of cars in parking garages and pedestrians on sidewalks.”

The decision was not shocking, it was merely an extension of an earlier case decided by the Supreme Court in 1982 which held that the use of drug sniffing dogs to search luggage in an airport was in fact not a search either. (United States v. Place).
Continue reading

We as Americans are protected “against unreasonable searches and seizures” under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Search warrants are not to be issued for less than “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”. If a judge finds that a policeman or other law enforcement agent violates an individual’s fourth amendment rights, then any and all evidence they collect as a result of the illegal search will be excluded at trial. This is what is known as the “exclusionary rule”.

658255_u_s__supreme_court_washington_dc.jpg

The “exclusionary rule” has its roots in a case decided by the Unites States Supreme Court in 1886, Boyd v. United States. It was not until 1961 in the case of Mapp v. Ohio, that the Supreme Court made it clear that the exclusionary rule applied to all federal AND state law enforcement officials. However, as the Supreme Court has become more conservative in recent years, the exclusionary rule now has a much more narrow application than when the Mapp case was decided in 1961.
Continue reading

Getting a DUI is a life changing experience. Many times, the people charged with this crime have little to no experience with the criminal justice system and have no idea what to expect. DUI also is a crime which law enforcement and District Attorneys are very aggressive in prosecuting. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Tennessee is .08, this can mean as few as two drinks for some people. A persons BAC will depend on many factors, such as weight, time period in which drinks are consumed, a persons individual rate of metabolism, and many others.

Driving Under the Influence is one of the few crimes for which an individual can be convicted solely on the opinion of a police officer. While most Tennessee DUI offenses are classified as misdemeanors (although a fourth-offense is a Class E felony in Tennessee), the penalties for Tennessee DUI are typically much more serious.

75579_drunk_driving.jpg

Upon conviction for First Offense DUI in Tennessee, a person is subject to a maximum sentence of 11 months, 29 days, with a minimum of 48 hours in jail, or a minimum of 7 days in jail if, at the time of the offense, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was .20% or higher. A first offense also require a minimum $350.00 fine and court costs; the loss of driver’s license for a period of one year; and enrollment in a court approved DUI education course.

Attendance at AA meetings may also be required. License revocation for one year is also required when a defendant is found to have refused to submit to a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) after being lawfully requested to do so. This may apply even where the defendant is not convicted of DUI.
Continue reading

Many people in this country feel that marijuana should in fact be decriminalized. Multiple states, counties, and cities have decriminalized marijuana. Most places that have decriminalized marijuana have civil fines, drug education, or drug treatment in place of incarceration and/or criminal charges for possession of small amounts of marijuana, or have made various marijuana offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement. A few places, particularly in California, have removed almost all legal penalties for marijuana, including personal cultivation.

540325_plantator.jpg In Tennessee, possession of Marijuana is a Class A Misdemeanor and can carry with it a fine of up to $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days. First convictions for any misdemeanor has a mandatory minimum fine of $250. Second convictions $500, and subsequent convictions, $1,000. A person in Tennessee found in possession of more than one-half an ounce or 14.75 grams, may be charged with possession with intent to sell, a felony charge. The class of felony will increase depending on the amount of marijuana a person is charged with being in possession.

Continue reading

Recently the “implied consent” law in Tennessee has changed to allow officers the choice to ask you to submit to a breath test or blood test or both. The most recent change makes it possible for an officer to require a driver to submit to both a breath and a blood test. It appears that under the new law, an officer could ask an individual to submit to a breath test and if the results are not to his liking; could require an individual to submit to a blood test as well.

However, neither the breath test nor the blood test may be administered to determine BAC unless the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving “while under the influence of alcohol, a drug, any other intoxicant or any combination of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants”. Also, for the results of such test or tests to be admissible as evidence, it must first be established that all tests administered were administered to the person within two (2) hours following such person’s arrest or initial detention.
Continue reading