Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Standard Of Appellate Review

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, clarified the standard of appellate review for a trial court’s decision regarding judicial diversion.

When a case is appealed, the court must determine what standard of review applies. In this case, the defendant argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals used the wrong standard when reviewing the trial court’s decision to deny judicial diversion.

In October of 2011, Kiara Tashawn King pled guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property for her involvement as the getaway driver for three other individuals who had burglarized a Marshall County residence. King asked the trial court to place her on judicial diversion, which ultimately could have resulted in dismissal of the charges if she had successfully completed her probationary terms. The trial court denied her request, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the denial of diversion.

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Court of Criminal Appeals, adopting as the appropriate standard of review for judicial diversion rulings “abuse of discretion with a presumption of reasonableness.” 

While this standard provides trial judges with considerable discretion on the issue, the record must demonstrate that all relevant factors were addressed during the proceeding.  In this case, although the trial court failed to place its reasons on the record, the Supreme Court chose to conduct its own review, concluding that the trial court had reached the proper result.

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