An area of judicial reform in Tennessee is the adequacy of charging instruments. No one should face a criminal charge without there being particular reference to the statutes given.
Police in Chattanooga regularly file criminal charges absent citations of statute.
Another missing element in virtually every criminal charge filed in Hamilton County and the other 94 counties in the state is that of intent.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
The mens rea, or guilty mind, statute in Tennessee requires that intent be alleged in every charge and in every element of a charge. “A person commits an offense who acts intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, as the definition of the offense requires, with respect to each element of the offense.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-301(a)(1).
The police citation of Diana Watt in her July 7, 2018, commercial transportation arrest fails to cite the statute under which she is being charged. She has no idea what the charges are and where to find them in the Tennessee code annotated. There is also no allegation in the officer’s narrative that she intentionally and with guilty mind transgressed the eight laws under which she was initially charged.
‘Essential elements’ must be stated
It is routine for attorneys and members of local bar associations to overlook grievous faults with state-originating criminal claims against members of the public and the citizenry. The federal courts tell what is expected of indictments and charging instruments.
“No essential element of the crime can be omitted without destroying the whole pleading. The omission cannot be supplied by intendment, or implication, and the charge must be made directly and not inferentially, or by way of recital.” United States V. Hess., 124 U.S. 483, 8 S. Ct. 571.
“Generally, the charge should be so laid in the indictment or information as to bring the case precisely within the statutory description of the offense, distinctly alleging all material facts necessary to constitute the essential elements of the offense. Nothing is to be left to implication or intendment, or to conclusion, nor can the failure to aver material facts be cured by argument or inference.” Hale v. United States, 89 F.2d 578 (C.C. W. Va., 1937).
A citation “is not sufficient to set forth the offence in the words of the statute, unless those words of themselves fully, directly, and expressly, without any uncertainty or ambiguity, set forth all the elements necessary to constitute the offence intended to be punished *** . ” United States v. Carll, 105 U.S. 611, 612.