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LawTalk, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  30 years legal experience
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Prior convictions affect sentencing levels in the state of

Customer Question

Prior convictions affect sentencing levels in the state of Tennessee. Is the level of sentencing in Tennessee affected by prior convictions in another state - for example would a felony conviction (that was served and completed) in Virginia cause a mandatory increase in the "base" number of years one would have to serve in Tennessee if they were later convicted of a felony there? What are the state code citations that detail this, i.e. that a felony ANYWHERE affects Tennessee sentencing - or - only previous felony convictions in Tennessee.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 3 years ago.

Good afternoon BC,

I'm Doug, and I'm sorry to hear of the confusion. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

Under Tennessee law, there are a number of things which may act to allow the sentencing judge to "enhance" the sentence given in response to a plea deal or a conviction, and one of those things which an enhancement may be based on is prior convictions.

There is no law in TN that only prior convictions in TN may be considered in a possible sentence enhancement. And so yes, convictions from another state---so long as those convictions were ordered in a setting where the right to defend against the charge was available, and there was not violation of any due process rights, the out of state conviction may be used in sentence enhancement under Tennessee law.

The pertinent law is as follows, and states in pertinent part:
Tennessee Code, Title 40 - Criminal Procedure
Chapter 35 - Criminal Sentencing Reform Act of 1989
Part 1 - General Provisions
40-35-114 - Enhancement factors.

"If appropriate for the offense and if not already an essential element of the offense, the court shall consider, but is not bound by, the following advisory factors in determining whether to enhance a defendant's sentence:

(1) The defendant has a previous history of criminal convictions or criminal behavior, in addition to those necessary to establish the appropriate range;..."

The purpose of an enhancement is to lengthen the sentence given based on a new conviction, or to increase the fine or other penalty involved, and so yes, under your set of facts, an earlier conviction in Virginia---even if time was served---could be used as an enhancement of a sentence in Tennessee based on a conviction/plea deal in TN later in time.

You may reply back to me again if you have additional questions, and I will continue to assist you.

I wish you the best in your future,