As stated earlier the crimes are separated into misdemeanors and felonies. By statute a crimes is one or the other and then is classified as a C, B or A misdemeanor or an E, D, C, B or A felony. The chart below in the first column shows each of these class of crimes. Upon conviction a defendant is subject to the penalty within the ‘range’ in which they qualify. The majority fall under the column of ‘Range I – Standard’, meaning they have 0 to only 1 prior qualifying felony conviction. To be‘bumped up’ to Range II the defendant must have at least 2 prior qualifying felony convictions. The difference between the ranges is the percentage of sentence they must serve before they are eligible for release from prison.
For example, if someone is convicted of a Class C Felony and they have no prior felony convictions they are usually given the minimum sentence of three years as a Range I Standard. Their Release Eligibility Date (or RED) is at 30% which is 0.9 of a year – just under one year. What the chart does not show is that under Tennessee law as a Range I Standard offender that defendant is actually eligible for probation and the judge has to find that there are some serious circumstances why the three year sentence that the defendant is given should not be served on probation or community corrections as an ‘alternative sentence’ as opposed to actually going to prison.
The chart is somewhat confusing and it probably generates more questions than it answers, but what it does show are the guidelines for sentencing. Our criminal court our judge does not typically give fines and has a strong preference for alternative sentencing until a defendant has reached the community corrections level. If a defendant does reoffend or violate while on community corrections, our judge almost always will send the defendant off to prison at that point.