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What You Need to Know about Sentencing in a Tennessee Criminal Case

If you have been charged with a crime, your goal is undoubtedly to avoid a conviction; however, sometimes a conviction is inevitable. When that happens, the focus shifts to the sentence you will receive. If you have never been sentenced for a criminal offense, you probably know little about the sentencing procedure and how a sentence is decided. While every sentence is unique, a Tennessee criminal defense attorneyMurfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains some basic things you should know about sentencing in Tennessee.

Sentencing Procedures

How and when a sentence is decided will depend on how and when the defendant’s guilt was decided. If a defendant enters into a guilty plea agreement, the sentencing terms are included in the agreement. If the defendant was found guilty at trial, sentencing may occur immediately after a trial or at a sentencing hearing following a guilty verdict at trial. Typically, a sentencing hearing is required when the defendant has been convicted of a felony offense. If the sentencing hearing is ordered, the court usually orders a pre-sentence investigation to be conducted prior to the hearing. At the hearing, both the State and the defendant can present evidence and question witnesses in an effort to help the court determine an appropriate sentence. 

Sentencing Ranges

The severity of the offense(s) involved will directly impact a defendant’s sentence. Misdemeanor offenses carry a maximum term of incarceration of one year. The Tennessee Sentencing Guidelines determine the maximum sentence for a felony conviction. Felonies in Tennessee are ranked as A-E, with an A felony being the most severe. While an A felony can carry up to 60 years in jail, an E felony can only carry up to 6 years in jail. A defendant’s sentence will fall within the sentencing range for that level of felony unless the court can provide a legitimate reason for deviating. 

Understanding Your Release Eligibility Date (RED)

Although you could be sentenced to a lengthy sentence, that does not necessarily mean you will serve that long in prison. Your Release Eligibility Date (RED) refers to the minimum amount of time to be served on a felony before you can be placed on parole. This is determined by the level of the offense and your prior criminal history (or lack thereof) There are three basic ranges (I,II,III) as well as a “mitigated” and “career” range for defendant’s with no significant criminal history and those with a lengthy history, respectively.

 What Is the Difference between Concurrent and Consecutive Sentencing?

If you are convicted on more than one charge and/or are currently serving another sentence, the judge will likely have to decide your RED by deciding if the sentences will be served concurrently or consecutively. A concurrent sentence means that you can serve your new sentence right along with the old one. A consecutive sentence means that you must serve the new sentence after you complete the existing sentence. When a defendant is convicted of multiple offenses from one trial or when the defendant has additional sentences not yet fully served as the result of convictions in the same or other courts and the law requires consecutive sentences, the sentence shall be consecutive whether the judgment explicitly so orders or not. This rule shall specifically apply to:

  • a sentence for a felony committed while on parole for a felony
  • a sentence for escape or for a felony committed while on escape
  • a sentence for a felony committed while the defendant was released on bail and the defendant is convicted of both offenses.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you were recently charged with a criminal offense, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael