Criminal defense case study of a juvenile client arrested on a probation violation warrant in Nashville, TN. Our client was charged with violating his conditions of felony probation after a search warrant was executed on a Nashville home where our client previously resided. During the search, firearms, ammo, drugs, and drug paraphernalia were alleged to have been discovered.
Our (teenage) client was facing real prison time as an adult and the prospect of being a convicted felon the rest of his life. He was already on probation for a felony “diversion” plea deal. For our client, losing his “diversion” status meant his plans for attending college to study in the agriculture program he wanted would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Additionally, given his age, the thought of a long prison sentence rightly terrified him.
If he was found guilty of violating probation, his “diversion” plea on the felony would be voided and he’d have a felony conviction on his criminal record for the rest of his life. A felony conviction would have a serious impact on our client’s ability to attend college, rent an apartment, and have a career that enabled him to have the quality of life he expected.
To make matters worse, if we lost, our client would have also been charged with drug possession, which meant the possibility of having a drug conviction on his record. Having both drug and firearms convictions on a criminal record will have a devastating impact on anyone’s future prospects.
Our primary goal was to keep him out of prison, and, if possible, get the charges dismissed so he could keep a felony conviction off his record and attend college. If the charges were dismissed our client could keep his “diversion” status alive and have his prior felony conviction expunged from his criminal record once he successfully completed probation.
The probation violation stemmed from the State’s belief that our client was residing in his mother’s home, instead of his grandmother’s home, which is where he told them he was. When the State searched our client’s mother’s home, they found guns and drugs. The plan was to convince the District Attorney (DA) to keep our client’s diversion status intact and, if possible, get the probation violation warrant dismissed by showing that our client was in fact staying at his grandmother’s home and not his mother’s home.
If that failed, plan B was to convince the court of the same during trial. While trial was a much riskier option, any plea deal that did not keep our client’s diversion status intact was certain to cause irreparable harm to our client’s life and future prospects.
The DA refused to discuss the case at all. She would only say she could not offer our client any resolution of the violation that allowed him to keep his diversion status. This meant we would have to win at trial.
The breakthrough came from a discussion I had previously with our client’s Probation Officer. During that discussion I learned that the primary basis the State had to believe our client was not living with his grandmother was the fact that our client was not present during a single “home visit” that was conducted. Because the DA refused to discuss the case prior to trial, she was unaware that I could explain this absence, which was the linchpin for her case. I knew our client was not there on that day because he was with me, turning himself in for his brief jail sentence that was part of his original sentence in addition to probation.
At trial, I questioned both primary detectives involved in the search of our client’s mother’s home. The detectives testified that surveillance was conducted on the residence because they believed that drug trafficking was taking place on the property. I was able to get both detectives to admit that they could not specifically identify our client as one of the individuals they had observed coming and going from the property. The detectives’ only supporting evidence that our client had been in the home were from social media posts our client made showing him in the home.
On cross-examination, the detective also admitted that our client could have taken the photos and videos long before actually posting them. Our client had lived in the house for nearly 13 years prior to moving out around the same time he was placed on probation. It was only a problem for our client’s probation status if he had been around the house, where these drugs and guns were found, after being on probation.
The violation of probation charges were dismissed and our client’s college dreams were saved! The client was placed right back on probation with no impact, no new conditions, nor having to start probation over. Once completed, he’ll have a clean record!
THE STAKES: Our (teenage) client was facing real prison time as an adult and the prospect of being a convicted felon the rest of his life.
THE GOAL: Our primary goal was to keep him out of prison and, if possible, get the charges dismissed so he could keep a felony conviction off his record and attend college.
THE CHARGES: VIOLATION OF PROBATION FOR ALLEGEDLY FAILING TO REPORT TO HIS PROBATION OFFICER AND BEING IN POSSESSION OF FIREARMS AND DRUGS. THE UNDERLYING CHARGES FOR WHICH ON PROBATION WERE MISDEMEANOR POSSESSION OF HANDGUN, FELONY EVADING ARREST IN MOTOR VEHICLE, AND MISDEMEANOR LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT.
CHARGE CLASSIFICATIONS: Class E Felony, Class A Misdemeanor(s)
RELEVANT LAWS FOR CHARGE: TCA § 40-35-311, TCA § 39-17-1307, TCA § 39-16-603(b, TCA § 55-10-101
OUTCOME RESULT: Violation of Probation charges dismissed and college dreams saved! Client was placed right back on probation with no impact, no new conditions, nor having to start probation over. Once completed, he’ll have a clean record!
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