Aggressive Knoxville Homicide Defense Lawyers Fight for Your Future

Highly regarded legal team serving clients throughout Tennessee

There is no crime taken more seriously than homicide. If you take the life of another human being, the government will actively and aggressively pursue a case against you. This is not the time to choose a lawyer who’s never been to trial, or never handled a felony murder case. You don’t want an attorney who’s cutting his or her teeth on a case where your life may literally be at stake.

Throughout Tennessee, our legal team at Banks & Jones has fought aggressively to defend clients who face charges for committing homicide and murder. With more than 50 years of combined experience practicing law, our lawyers understand the seriousness of your situation. We assess your case carefully and candidly — we never sugarcoat the issues involved in your case. As a high-performance motorcyclist, attorney T. Scott Jones excels in intense situations. And at our firm, we know what is on the line in your case. Fearless and skilled, our lawyers fight relentlessly to protect your rights.

What are the various types of homicide charges in Knoxville?

Homicide is the unlawful killing of another human being; it is the most serious crime in the criminal justice system. Depending on the exact charges against you, you could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. The moment the police arrest you for committing any type of homicide crime, it is vital that you seek competent legal help. Our criminal defense lawyers assist clients with the following types of criminal homicide cases in Knoxville:

  • First-degree murder. If you commit a premeditated and intentional killing of another person, the state charges you with first-degree murder. You may also be charged with first-degree murder if you commit a felony murder — the killing of another during the commission of a felony. If you are convicted, you could be put to death. It is the only capital crime on our books, and if the State pursues the death penalty, your life is on the line. Even if doesn’t, however, you could still life in prison.
  • Second-degree murder. Tennessee law specifically defines second-degree murder as “a knowing killing of another.” If you’re arrested for second-degree murder, you face a Class A felony charge and between 15 and 60 years in prison.
  • Voluntary manslaughter. When a person kills another as a result of sufficient provocation or in the heat of passion, the state may charge the defendant with voluntary manslaughter — a Class D felony punishable by between two (2) and 12 years in prison.
  • Vehicular homicide. You don’t have be driving a car to be charged with vehicular homicide: a boat, a plane, an ATV – any of those will count, too. If you’re driving in such a reckless manner that it ends up killing someone, or if you’re drag racing, it’s a Class C felony: three (3) to 15 years in prison. If you’re drunk when you’re behind the wheel, it’s a Class B felony: eight (8) to 30 years in prison.
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide. If you’ve been busted two or more times before for drunk driving, have been convicted of vehicular assault, or have any combination of those convictions, you can be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, a Class A felony (15 to 60 years in prison).
  • Criminally negligent homicide. Defined as “criminally negligent conduct that results in death,” criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony. That means, if convicted, you face between one (1) and (6) years in prison.
  • Reckless homicide. Reckless homicide is the reckless killing of another. This type of homicide is a Class E felony punishable by between one (1) and six (6) years in prison.

Look, these are serious charges. It’s a minimum or one year in prison at best, and your life – literally or figuratively – at worst. It’s also thousands upon thousands of dollars in fines, potential civil lawsuits by surviving family members, the loss of your rights when you finally come home: in short, nothing will ever be the same. The only way to minimize the damage to is to get a lawyer who knows how to handle the pressure of a homicide case as quickly as he or she can, so he or she can start working on your defense ASAP.

What are common defenses to homicide cases in Knoxville?

There are many different defenses that may help a defendant charged with homicide obtain an acquittal or a dismissal of the charges. These defenses include:

  • Justifiable homicide. These are homicides that the Tennessee permits for reasons of justice and equity. Examples include:
    • Self-defense. A strong self-defense case requires a showing that the defendant:
      • Honestly and reasonably believed self-defense was required
      • Didn’t start the violence
      • Did use an equal amount of force to respond to an attack
    • Defense of a third person. Homicide in defense of a third person may also be justified under some conditions.
      • Defense of property. Generally, killing someone or causing serious bodily injury is not a defense – unless the defendant can show the attacker/trespasser – threatened the property owner’s life.
      • Other statutory defenses
  • An inability to intentionally kill someone. These defenses are only partially helpful. The defense may help to reduce the charge, but they usually require some other type of confinement.
      • § 39-11-501 provides that:
        • “It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of the defendant’s acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense. The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.”
  • Intoxication generally is not a defense to a crime but evidence of intoxication can “negate a culpable mental state.” Involuntary intoxication is a stronger defense than voluntary intoxication.
  •  Duress. § 39-11-504 provides, “Duress is a defense to prosecution where the person or a third person is threatened with harm that is present, imminent, impending and of such a nature to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily injury if the act is not done.”
  • Ignorance or Mistake of Fact. 39-11-502 provides, with some exceptions, that “ignorance or mistake of fact is a defense to prosecution if the ignorance or mistake negates the culpable mental state of the charged offense.”
  • Entrapment. § 39-11-505. Entrapment is the illegal inducement by a law enforcement officer or official to “persuade an otherwise unwilling person to commit an unlawful act when the person was not predisposed to do so. “

What US Constitutional defenses apply in a homicide case?

Generally, there are three amendments that are often used in homicide cases on behalf of defendants. If these amendments are violated, then any evidence obtained as a result of the violation may be excluded from evidence – which means the evidence can’t be introduced into court at your trial.

  • The Fourth Amendment. This Amendment protects defendants from unreasonable searches and seizures. It requires probable cause for a warrant.
  • The Fifth Amendment. This Amendment:
    • Requires a presentment or grand jury indictment for a capital crime (with some exceptions)
    • Protects defendants from double jeopardy for the same offense
    • Protects defendants from being forced to be a witness against himself/herself
    • Requires due process of law
  • The Sixth Amendment. This Amendment requires that:
    • The defendant has a speedy and public trial
    • The trial be by an impartial jury
    • The defendant be told of the nature and cause of the charges
    • The defendant has the right to confront (normally, through cross-examination) the witnesses against him/her
    • The defendant “have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses” in his/her favor
    • The defendant has the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Other Amendments may also apply depending on the charges.

In all criminal cases, including homicide charges:

  • The defendant is presumed innocent
  • The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt

What are the stages of a homicide case in East Tennessee?

Generally, homicide cases begin with the right of the defense to file motions regarding the trial including the exclusion of evidence. The trial itself consists of:

  • Selection of jurors
  • The prosecution’s opening statement
  • The defense’s opening statement
  • The prosecution’s case and cross-examination by the defendant
  • The defense case and cross-examination by the prosecution
  • The prosecution’s rebuttal
  • Closing arguments
  • Deliberation by the jury
  • The verdict
  • A sentencing if the defendant is found guilty
  • Release from custody if the defendant is acquitted

A skilled criminal defense lawyer may appeal any convictions.

Are juveniles charged as adults for homicide?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 920 juveniles were arrested for homicide and non-negligent manslaughter in 2018. Depending on their age, the exact nature of the crime, and their background, they could be charged as adults. But being a minor facing murder charges doesn’t mean anything will be easier; as the Tennessean reports, “Tennessee’s sentencing laws for juveniles convicted of murder… come with the longest mandatory minimum sentence in the nation at 51 years.”

If your son or daughter is arrested for any type of homicide or juvenile crime, our lawyers can look out for his or her best interests.

Skilled criminal law attorneys help you build a strong defense

If you are arrested for homicide, you need serious legal help. At Banks & Jones, we are highly qualified trial attorneys who have a reputation for providing professional defense counsel to those charged with manslaughter, homicide, and murder. Call 865-546-2141 or contact us  to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Knoxville defense lawyers.

Types of Cases We Handle

Our attorneys handle a variety of cases, including:

AssaultDriving under the influenceDrug crimes
Criminal DefenseJuvenile crimesHomicide
RapeReckless drivingRobbery
TheftWhite collar crimesFelonies vs. Misdemeanors
RapeWhite-Collar Crimes