Tennessee law separates criminal offenses into either misdemeanors or felonies.  Misdemeanors are punishable up to 11 months and 29 days and are considered less serious than felonies, although any criminal offense should be taken seriously and handled properly.  Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, and in some cases much more serious.  The minimum punishment is one year. Major felonies carry a mandatory prison sentence. For a first-time offender charged with a misdemeanor in Memphis, one of their main concerns will be if the charge is going on their record permanently, and will they will go to jail if convicted.  The answer is generally no.  Tennessee law allows all but one type of misdemeanor to be removed from a first-time offender’s record, and without a jail sentence.  These include domestic assault, underage drinking, shoplifting, weapons possession, vandalism, and simple drug possession.  These may all be removed, or diverted, from a first offender’s record after completing a period of probation and paying all required court costs and fines.  For help with your misdemeanor offense, contact a Memphis criminal attorney to learn how to resolve the case. The one misdemeanor that cannot be diverted is driving under the influence.  Not only does DUI carry a permanent conviction, it also carries mandatory jail time of at least 48 hours.  First-offenders who are convicted of DUI in Tennessee will have their record marked forever, possibly excluding them from certain jobs.  The law does not allow you to expunge or seal the conviction later on.  It is public record, available for anyone to see.  If you have been charged with driving under the influence, contact a Memphis DUI defense lawyer to review your case.  There may be ways to challenge the state’s evidence and avoid a permanent conviction. Felonies, as mentioned, are the most serious crimes.  Tennessee felonies can actually be broken down into two categories: non-violent and violent.  Violent felonies are reserved for the worst cases, such as murder or many sex crimes.  Non-violent felonies carry less severe punishment, and generally include property and drug crimes.  Because of the seriousness of felonies, an experienced criminal attorney in Memphis should handle the case. Some examples of non-violent felonies include burglary (whether of a business, a motor vehicle, or a home), theft of property over $500, and possession of controlled substances with intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell.  As with misdemeanors, first-time offenders charged with felonies such as these would be entitled to have the charge diverted.  The one major difference is that the punishment and fines will be greater.  Tennessee felonies carry a minimum 1 year sentence, and some diversion-eligible offenses go up to six years.  Qualified first-offender felons can still be placed on probation with the goal of having the charge expunged, but it could take some time.  Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in Tennessee, it’s absolutely critical that you contact a Memphis criminal lawyer to handle your case.  Your attorney can explore what options there are for keeping the charge from going on your record, and can work to minimize the punishment and get you the best outcome possible.  Criminal charges bring all sorts of long-term, unpleasant consequences, and the more serious the charge the more unpleasant it could be.  With the right approach, though, you stand the chance of being legally restored to the status you had before even being arrested. Patrick Stegall is a Memphis criminal attorney.  Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in Memphis, Germantown, or Collierville, contact Mr. Stegall to see what options you have to keep the offense from going on your record permanently.  He may be reached at (901) 205-9894 or by email at pstegall@stegall-law.com.

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