For an individual charged with a crime, one of the biggest concerns will be what happens to them if convicted.  The basic outcomes of a conviction are either a sentence of jail time, or an alternative sentence such as probation. In Tennessee, qualified offenders will be eligible for probation, meaning they can avoid going to jail.  However, probation can come with strict conditions, and it can be costly.  This article will look at what it takes to receive probation in Tennessee.

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Under Tennessee law, first-time offenders will be able to receive probation on just about any non-violent or drug related offense, including both misdemeanors and felonies.  Crimes such as drug possession (with or without intent to sell or deliver), DUI, theft, vandalism, forgery, fraud, assault, and burglary are all probation eligible. Violent crimes such as first and second degree murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and many sex crimes are not.  If you are charged with a crime in Tennessee, you should contact a Memphis criminal defense lawyer to review your case and assess your chances of getting probation if convicted.

Here’s how you get probation for a criminal offense in Tennessee: you have to ask the judge.  First you must plead guilty (or you are found guilty by a jury following trial), then you have a sentencing hearing where your attorney would petition the court and present evidence on your behalf as to why you would be a good candidate for probation.  First offenders charged with non-violent offenses are eligible for probation, but they are not necessarily entitled to it.  The law merely gives you the chance.  You still must convince the judge.

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    At the sentencing hearing, it probably would be wise to testify for yourself, to explain your involvement in the offense and show that you have taken responsibility for it.  Honesty and remorse are very important to a judge in deciding whether to grant an alternative sentence.  You may also want to have someone who knows you, such as a family member or priest, testify as a character witness.  If you are employed, you will want to tell the judge and possibly show employment records.  Having a job can greatly improve your chances of receiving probation.

    If you are granted probation, it will begin immediately.  The judge can put in place any number of conditions, including a curfew, random and frequent drug tests, community service, and restitution.  Failure to follow or complete these conditions, or getting arrested again, would be grounds for a probation violation and would send you to jail.  However, if you do what you’re required to do and obey the law, this won’t happen.

    Patrick Stegall is a Memphis criminal defense attorney.  He handles criminal matters of all types and has successfully petitioned the court on behalf of numerous clients for alternative sentences.  If you or someone close to you is charged with a criminal case in or near Memphis, contact Mr. Stegall to discuss your options.  You may call him at (901) 205-9894 or email him at

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