Tennessee Court Records
Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions in Tennessee
The Tennessee justice system broadly classifies criminal offenses into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–35–110). Tennessee’s state criminal code provides definitions and authorized penalties for offenses in the state. Summarily, Tennessee crimes are tried on the basis of these categories.
What is a felony in Tennessee?
Felonies are serious offenses that attract equally severe penalties. In the state of Tennessee, a felony is an offense for which the penalty is a minimum sentence of one year in state prison. Felonies are categorized into classes A, B, C, D, and E, depending on the severity of the crime. Penalties for felony crimes range from fines of up to $50,000 to life imprisonment. The classes of felony crimes in Tennessee are:
- Class A felony: Felonies in Class A are considered the most serious. Persons who have been convicted of class A felonies may be imprisoned for between 15 and 60 years or required to pay a fine of up to $50,000. Convicts may be penalized with both prison time and fines. Aggravated rape is a Class A felony in Tennessee. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39–13–502)
- Class B felony: Class B felonies are punishable by imprisonment of a minimum of eight years and not more than 30 years, and a fine of up to $25,000. In Tennessee, aggravated robbery is a Class B felony.
- Class C felony: Persons convicted of Class C felonies may be penalized with a prison term of no less than three years and no more than 15 years. They may also be required to pay fines of up to $10,000. Using children in pornography is a Class C felony
- Class D felony: Class D felonies attract penalties of fines no more than $5,000, and imprisonment sentences of up to 12 years. Burglary is an example of a Class D felony
- Class E felony: These are the least grievous offenses in the classes of felonies, but are more serious than misdemeanors. In Tennessee, Class E felonies are punishable by up to six years in prison and fines of up to $3,000. Joyriding is a Class E felony.
For sentencing, felony offenses with unspecified classes are Class E felonies.
In addition to fines and prison time, other consequences may result from felony convictions. Persons who have been convicted of felony crimes may be liable to serve longer sentences if they are convicted of other crimes. Convicted felons may also not be eligible for jobs that require professional licenses or admission into schools. They are also not eligible for some housing benefits or federal grants and loans. Until their civil rights are restored, felons do not have the right to vote or bear arms.
What are some examples of felonies in Tennessee?
Examples of felonies in Tennessee are:
- Possession of narcotics (up to a certain amount)
- Property theft
- Indecent exposure
- Unlawful photographing
- Promoting prostitution
- Identity theft
- Tax evasion
Most felony crimes have statutes of limitation in Tennessee. However, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment do not have statutes of limitation. This means that offenders can be prosecuted, tried, and punished any time after the offense is committed. For other classes of offense, prosecution must begin within:
- 15 years after the crime is committed for Class A felonies
- Eight years after the crime is committed for Class B felonies
- Four years after the crime is committed for Classes C and D felonies
- Two years after the crime is committed for Class E felonies
Exceptions and additions to the above-listed limitation statutes are laid out in Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–2–101.
Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Tennessee?
Persons who have been convicted of felony crimes may apply to have the record expunged. In Tennessee, not all felony records can be expunged. A person may be eligible for expungement if:
- They were arrested but not charged
- Charges against them were dismissed
- A trial returned a verdict of “not guilty”
- Prosecution was not pursued in the case
- They have fulfilled all requirements of the sentence for their conviction
Eligible individuals may apply for expungement in the court where they were sentenced. If the application is granted, the felony record will be removed or erased from the applicant’s criminal history. This includes all official records, excluding non-public records retained by the court. When a person’s felony record is expunged, in the eyes of the law they are returned to the status they were in before they were arrested for or charged with the crime. They are no longer considered guilty of the crime. If they say that they have never committed any such crime, they will not be found guilty of giving a false statement.
Other conditions for eligibility and felony crimes eligible for expungement as provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–32–101 are outlined on the Tennessee state website. When an order of expungement is issued, state agency officials are required to remove and destroy the record within 60 days.
Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Tennessee?
Expungements are not the same as sealing in Tennessee. Sealed records are not accessible to members of the public. When a record is expunged, all public records of the case will be removed and destroyed. However, this does not include non-public records such as investigative reports, arrest histories, appellate court records, and confidential files held by the district attorney general for law enforcement purposes. These non-public records are only available to:
- Law enforcement agencies
- Attorneys of record for use in criminal investigations and
- The treasury comptroller for audit purposes.
How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Tennessee?
Felony crimes that have not been expunged or sealed stay permanently on the offender’s criminal history record. A person may apply to have their felony records expunged five years after they have completed all the requirements of the sentence, including legal financial obligations, probation, and conditions of supervised or unsupervised release. If the offense was a drug fraud, convicted persons may apply to have their records expunged 10 years after completion of all the requirements of the sentence. Expungement only applies to eligible felonies as provided by Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–32–101.
What is a Misdemeanor in Tennessee?
Misdemeanors are offenses punishable by no more than 11 months in county jail. In Tennessee, misdemeanors are categorized into classes A, B, and C (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–35–110). Offenses designated as misdemeanors without specified classes are categorized as Class A misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are considered less serious than felony crimes, but more serious than infractions such as minor traffic violations. Misdemeanors are classified into:
- Class A misdemeanors: Class A misdemeanors are offenses punishable by fines of up to $2500 or a sentence of no more than 11 months in county jail, or both. Except otherwise provided by state statutes. Reckless burning is considered a Class A misdemeanor (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39–14–304)
- Class B misdemeanors: offenses punishable by fines of up to $500 and jail time of no more than six months are Class B misdemeanors. Such offenses can be punished with either time in county jail or fines or both. Violating quarantine is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor (Tenn. Code Ann. § 68–1–203)
- Class C misdemeanors: Class C misdemeanors are the least serious class of misdemeanors. They are offenses punishable by a maximum of 30 days in county jail, a fine of up to $50, or both. Driving an unregistered vehicle on the highway is a Class C misdemeanor (Tenn. Code Ann. § 55–3–102)
What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Tennessee?
The following are some examples of misdemeanors in Tennessee:
- Disorderly conduct at funerals
- Sale of harmful items to minors
- Woods burning
- Public indecency
- Unlawful massage
- Aggravated criminal trespass
- Public intoxication
- Simple marijuana possession
- Resisting arrest
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants
- Patronizing prostitution
- Release of confidential information
Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Tennessee?
Persons who have been charged with misdemeanor crimes may file a petition with the sentencing court to have the charge or conviction removed from their criminal history record. The record may be expunged if:
- The applicant was arrested but not charged
- The charge was dismissed
- The offender completed a pretrial diversion program
However, some misdemeanors, such as assault, stalking, reckless burning, and some sexual offenses, are not eligible for expungement. Other ineligible misdemeanors are laid out according to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40–32–101 on the Tennessee State website. To be eligible for expungement, the applicant must have met all the requirements of the sentence for which they are seeking expungement. At the time the petition of expungement is filed, five years must have elapsed since the completion of the requirements.
Can a DUI Be Expunged in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, DUI records are not eligible for expungement. However, if a juvenile offender has had their driving privileges suspended or denied, when the individual turns 18, all the records relating to the denial will be expunged. Their driving record will also contain no information on the denial. This is only applicable if the requirements for reinstatement set by the court have been met and if the denial or suspension has expired.
What constitutes an Infraction in Tennessee?
Infractions are summary offenses or minor crimes. Infractions are considered the least serious crimes and are not punishable by jail time but by fines. They can be prosecuted without a jury trial, and sometimes without a court appearance. Infractions are usually related to building code violations, traffic, or noise violations. However, serious traffic law violations, such as driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) or reckless driving are punishable by jail time. These offenses are not considered infractions.
What are some examples of Infractions in Tennessee?
Some examples of infractions in Tennessee are:
- Driving without wearing a seat belt
- Traffic light violations, such as running a red light
- Driving while talking on the phone
- Inattentive driving
- Failing to obey traffic instructions
- Making illegal u-turns
- Public intoxication
- Following emergency vehicles unlawfully
Although infractions are minor offenses, they can sometimes attract other consequences, such as increased insurance premiums. In Tennessee, traffic offenses are also tagged with points, which could lead to a loss of driving privileges. Points are added to offenders’ driving records, and when they are accumulated, it could lead to a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.
Can Infractions be Expunged from a Tennessee Criminal Court Record?
Tennessee laws do not provide true expungement for infractions. However, some traffic violations and infractions may be dismissed after fines have been paid and other requirements completed. In Tennessee, non-moving traffic violations, such as parking violations or inattentive driving are not reported to the department of licensing. Hence, they will not stay permanently on the offender’s driving records.