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Hire a Lawyer now rather than later for an Underage Alcohol Possession Charge

August 17, 2011

Hire a Lawyer now rather than later for an Underage Alcohol Possession Charge

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals on July 18, 2011 issued an opinion on an underage alcohol consumption case granting some relief to an individual that had been convicted of underage alcohol consumption that would have otherwise carried a permanent criminal conviction/record.
In State v. Benjamin Wheeler Word, the defendant sought post conviction review of his case. Mr. Word had pled guilty in a General Sessions Court of Tennessee under Tennessee Code Annotated 1-3-113 and was sentenced to an 11 month and 29 day suspended sentence to be served on supervised probation and 16 hours of community service work. Such guilty plea, like any guilty plea in Tennessee that is accepted by the court, with the lone exception discussed below, led to a permanent criminal conviction.
It is obvious that after being convicted that Mr. Word had contact with a criminal defense attorney and learned that he may have been able to have avoid a conviction as Tennessee has more than one Statute related to possession of alcohol by someone under the legal age and two statutes relating to underage possession of alcohol allow for expungement regardless of the disposition 6 months after the violation. See Tenn Code Ann 57-3-412 and 57-5-301
Mr. Word attempted to undo his guilty plea in the County Courts, but was denied. He later brought his appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals did not review whether or not he was entitled to undo his guilty plea in favor of one of the statutes that allowed for expungement because fortunately for Mr. Word the court found that he was entitled to withdraw his guilty plea on another basis.
The obvious lesson in this case was that Mr. Word would have been better served by contacting an attorney at the outset. Mr. Word may have ultimately been able to avoid a permanent criminal conviction, but in the end he is left with a permanent record with the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision and one can imagine a larger legal bill for the expense of undoing his original plea.
If you are charged with a criminal offense in Nashville or the Middle Tennessee area, don’t hesitate to contact Vince Wyatt or David Raybin at 615-256-6666.