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In Tennessee crimes are distinguished between felonies and misdemeanors based on the severity of potential punishments. Crimes that are punishable by a minimum of one year in prison, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, are felonies, whereas crimes that carry a maximum sentence of less than one year are categorized as misdemeanors. Being charged with any type of crime in Tennessee is a serious matter. However, penalties for felony crimes are more severe and have long-lasting implications than do the penalties for misdemeanor charges. In either case, a trusted and experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in obtaining a favorable outcome. At Knox Defense, our attorneys have decades of experience in defending our client’s constitutional rights and freedoms in a multitude of criminal felony cases at both the state and federal levels.

State & Federal Felony Crimes

Like most states, felony charges in Tennessee can be imposed at either the state level or federal level. If you are faced with a federal felony offense, the process will differ from those charged at the state level. Federal penalties are evaluated on a separate set of factors than the Tennessee schedule. Facing felony charges in state or federal courts in Tennessee without the assistance of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can be a perilous undertaking. At Knox Defense, our attorneys represent defendants in both federal and state courts, including the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Tennessee and United States Supreme Courts. Our decades of experience inside and outside the courtroom make us East Tennessee’s premier criminal defense law firm.

Tennessee Felony Classes

The Tennessee legislature has classified felony crimes into different classes from A to E. These classes categorize felonies from least serious, Class E Felony, to the most serious, Class A Felony. Each class is assigned a sentencing range and a person convicted of an offense will receive a sentence based on the classification of the crime involved. The single exception is for convictions of First Degree Murder, which is in a class of its own and carries a set punishment of life imprisonment, with or without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.

Sentencing in Tennessee for felony offenses is dependent upon multiple factors, including the specific crime committed, the sentencing range for the crime at hand, and an individual’s history of prior convictions. The table below represents the statutory sentencing guideline, which is the foundation for all felony sentencing.

Felony Sentencing Guidelines in Tennessee

Felony Class Mitigated (0 Priors) Range I – “Standard” (0-1 Priors) Range II – “Multiple” (2-4 Priors) Range III – “Persistent” (5+ Priors) Career
15-60 years base
Release Eligibility %
13.5 years
(20% – 2.7 years)
15 -25 years
(30% – 4.5 – 7.5 years)
25 – 40 years
(35% – 8.8 – 14 years)
40 – 60 years
(45% – 18 – 27 years)
60 years
(60% – 36 years)
8 – 30 years
Release Eligibility %
7.2 years
(20% – 1.4 years)
8 – 12 years
(30% – 2.4 – 3.6 years)
12 – 20 years
(35% – 4.2 – 7 years)
20 – 30 years
(45% – 9 – 13.5 years)
30 years
(60% – 18 years)
3 – 15 years
Release Eligibility %
2.7 years
(20% – 2.7 years)
3 – 6 years
(30% – 4.5 – 7.5 years)
6 – 10 years
(35% – 8.8 – 14 years)
10 – 15 years
(45% – 18 – 27 years)
15 years
(60% – 9 years)
2 – 12 years
Release Eligibility %
1.8 years
(20% – 2.7 years)
2 – 4 years
(30% – 4.5 – 7.5 years)
4 – 8 years
(35% – 8.8 – 14 years)
8 – 12 years
(45% – 18 – 27 years)
12 years
(60% – 7.2 years)
1 – 6 years
Release Eligibility %
.9 years
(20% – .2 years)
1 – 2 years
(30% – .3 – .6 years)
2 – 4 years
(35% – .7 – 1.4 years)
4 – 6 years
(45% – 1.8 – 2.7 years)
6 years
(60% – 3.6 years)


Enhanced Penalties for Recidivism

As shown in the sentencing guidelines, Tennessee law imposes increasingly harsher enhanced penalties for repeat offenders. In the table, defendants are classified as “standard”, “multiple”, “persistent”, or “career” offenders. Tennessee’s Violent Offender Law (or Three Strikes Law) also provides a life imprisonment sentence without the possibility of parole for a person who commits three violent crimes. Additionally, offenders charged with gang-related crimes are also subject to enhanced penalties.

Prison Sentence Alternatives

For some felony offenses, there are alternatives to sentences of imprisonment. It may be possible for those charged with some lower-level felonies to end up with sentences involving community service, fines, and probation. If an imposed sentence is ten years or less a defendant may be eligible for probation. However, convictions for certain felony offenses do not permit probationary sentences no matter the length of imprisonment assigned to the classification. An experienced attorney can help you determine both defenses to and feasible sentencing alternatives for the specific crime you are faced with.

For those eligible to receive probation a prison sentence is usually suspended, providing an opportunity to fulfill the sentencing obligation under certain conditions of probationary release. Violation of any of the terms of an assigned probation can result in the end of the suspension and require the remainder of the sentence to be served in jail. Contrary to the release eligibility percentages listed in the chart, those convicted of certain offenses must serve 100% of their sentence, less behavior credits, before they are eligible for release.

Connect with A Lawyer at Knox Defense

At Knox Defense, our attorneys will discuss the charges you are up against and provide you with realistic options that allow you to make informed decisions about your defense. We can help you build a solid strategy for the best possible outcome in your unique matter. Our attorneys are aggressive advocates in and out of the courtroom with decades of experience in defending the rights of our clients and helping them to maintain their freedoms.

If you have been charged with a felony crime or suspect you are under investigation for a state or federal felony offense in Tennessee, don’t delay seeking advice from a trusted and experienced attorney. Call us today for your free confidential consultation at (865) 269-9926 or complete our online to get started.

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