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Legislative Branch Makes Another Power Grab From Judicial

Frank Lannom, Criminal Defense AttorneySeveral new laws took effect in Tennessee on January 1st. One prominent change in the law is that those convicted of Vehicular Homicide by Intoxication cannot receive probation. Common belief might be that such a law is supported by most all citizens and one in which there is little dispute, but that is not the case.

For many years our state has depended upon elected judges and District Attorneys to decide what cases and which individuals were appropriate for probation, primarily for any offense for the which the sentence is 10 years or less. The differences in the nature of an offense, the level of culpability, and other factors can be taken into effect by criminal defense lawyers proposing the positive aspects of their clients and their cases. Yet politicians seemingly cannot trust anyone, judges, juries or prosecutors with decision making without the politician injecting their "wisdom" to dictate the outcome of cases that they know nothing about. In most instances, politicians pass ill informed laws with minimum mandatory sentences whose substance creates injustice, just to make themselves look good. Such is the case with this law.

In many jurisdictions, judges and prosecutors justifiably treated cases more harshly when an impaired driver caused a death as a result of their impairment upon innocent people on the roadway. Conversely, the same law covered best friends, both out on a night of drinking, who voluntarily get into the same vehicle and the resulting crash kills the passenger. So often these cases, which I have handled, involved young people whose best friend or sibling died as a result of both of their poor judgments. In the latter cases, often some form of probation was found to be appropriate, sometimes after a 6 month or one year sentence in county jail, as part of a lifetime of punishment for the tragedy. Often even the family of the deceased desired no punishment for the poor joint decision that resulted in the tragedy. Yet still, our state legislature presumes to know best by passing a law with the same result in both kinds of cases. This takes all decision making out the hands of judges who can weigh all the facts. Our government is founded on the brilliant base of three pillars of power, each separate and balancing the other so as to not allow the tyranny of any one pillar. In this instance, the Legislative branch is continually grabbing power away from the Judicial branch and that is surely not what our Founders intended.

As always, injustice will occur when facts aren't allowed to effect sentences and the broad brush of the legislature, who must dictate, will create more injustice.

In Defense of the Citizen Accused,

Frank Lannom

137 Public Square Lebanon, TN 37087
Via Phone: (615) 444-2900 Via Facsimile: (615) 444-6516 Toll Free: (866) 820-4457


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Via Phone: (615) 313-3999

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