Crime & Punishment

Crime & Punishment: Bitcoin Criminals

Crime is changing. Law enforcement has better tools and more information. Investigators solve cases now with DNA, cell phone location, and social media posts. At the same time, crime has become more sophisticated. Drug dealers and thieves have adopted technology designed to make detection impossible. As with crime throughout the ages, though, criminals are still making false assumptions about what can be discovered and are simply making old fashioned mistakes.

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Using the Summary Rule to Advance Your Trial Theory

As far back as 1918 Tennessee Courts admitted “summary” evidence.[1] Those courts had no idea what was to come with the information revolution. With massive quantities of data available now, the need for the admission of summaries is critical. We tend to think of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 1006, allowing summaries, as applying in

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CRIME & PUNISHMENT: Practical Ethics

I am about to finish my second and final term as a member of the Board of Professional Responsibility.

When Justice Clark called six years ago, I didn’t know why she was calling. I remember exactly how the conversation went:

Justice Clark: This may be one of those calls you regret taking.
WD: Well, when you get a call from someone whose first name is ‘Justice,’ the answer is going to be ‘yes.’

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Defining and Limiting the ‘Community Caretaking’ Exception in Tennessee, or ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’

Recently I was driving to Nashville with my family. A car ahead was smoking and dropping some sort of brightly flaming material at  regular intervals on the interstate. I called 911 (as had others). I don’t know whether the driver was violating any criminal laws, but I’m pretty sure it would have been reasonable for an officer to blue light the car and check on the safety of the driver. (We later saw the car engulfed in flames as the driver jumped out and let the car roll backwards off of an exit ramp).

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Public Records as Evidence in Criminal Cases

The hearsay exception for public records could win the prize for the most underutilized evidence rule in criminal cases. Rule 803(8) is also a rule where the differences between the state and federal rule could change the outcome. In criminal cases, both the state and federal versions of the rule allow prosecutors and defense counsel to offer a variety of records created by an agency for the truth of the matters asserted in the records.

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(Not) Summary Judgment

There are just some cases that should never make it to trial. One often hears that there is no such thing as a motion for summary judgment in a criminal case. True, but it is wrong to conclude that trial courts lack authority to dismiss indictments if they have to rely on facts beyond the four corners of the indictment. It has never been disputed that a trial court has the authority to dismiss an indictment when a defect is apparent on its face.

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Attempting to Remedy the Erroneous Use of Microscopic Hair Comparison in Tennessee

Imagine you are serving on a jury in a serious criminal case. The issue is identity. The crime is horrible, but the defendant strongly denies committing the crime. Wouldn’t you feel better if the state could produce forensic evidence linking this defendant to the crime scene — or perhaps a strand of the victim’s hair in the defendant’s car?

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Legislative Initiatives on Privacy and Criminal Law

The Tennessee General Assembly has passed a number of new statutes to preserve personal privacy as technology continues to intersect with criminal law.

A. Drones.

The Tennessee General Assembly took an early interest in the criminal law implications of the use of drones.[1] In 2013, the legislature passed the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.”[2] The Act prohibits any law enforcement agency using a drone to gather evidence.[3] The Act, which passed the Senate unanimously, was patterned after a Florida Statute.[4]

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Is Our Capacity Diminished to Understand Diminished Capacity?

The doctrine sometimes called “diminished capacity” still seems to be confusing to practitioners and trial judges. I’d like to review the concept and offer some pointers on how defense counsel can develop relevant and admissible expert testimony regarding the mental state of the accused and how prosecutors can challenge such evidence.

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(Alleged) Crime Doesn’t Pay (Lawyers)

Let’s say you are a sales representative marketing medical supplies for a well-known corporation. Now imagine that the government begins an investigation of whether some of the medical devices you’ve sold were stolen. The assistant United States attorney takes the case to a federal grand jury, which hears only the witnesses the prosecutor calls, and obtains an indictment. Luckily for you, you are one of those defendants who can afford to retain counsel of your choice because of the money you have made in business. Right? Wrong.

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