A recent study conducted by WalletHub declared Nashville as one of the state capitals with the highest crime rates per thousand residents. According to the data, Nashville came in 46th out of the 50 state capitals. Only Little Rock, Salt Lake City, and Baton Rouge fared worse when it came to crime rates.
This data should not be too surprising. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Uniform Crime Report, Tennessee has a higher rate of violent crime than the country as a whole. In 2020, almost 400 Americans out of every 100,000 were victims of a violent crime. That same year, about 673 Tennesseans out of every 100,000 were victims of a violent crime. the FBI tracked four different categories of violent crimes in its data: homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault.
Tennessee’s murder rate is higher than average
Per FBI data, the state of Tennessee experienced 663 homicides during 2020, resulting in a rate of 9.6 per 100,000 residents. This was higher than the nation’s homicide rate, which was 6.5 per 100,000 citizens.
Tennessee has eight different categories of homicide, which is generally defined as the unlawful killing of another person, and two classifications for murder. The most serious is first-degree murder, and it is the only capital crime in Tennessee, meaning a person may be sentenced to death if convicted. For an individual to be convicted of first-degree murder, the intentional killing must meet certain criteria:
- Premeditation must be proven, meaning that the offender had to plan the murder before it was committed or had to wait for the victim before committing the murder, and/or
- It must have occurred in the commission of another crime, like a robbery, and/or
- It must have involved the “unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.”
Second-degree murder charges also require proof of a knowing killing, but without the premeditation. For example, a man who purchases a knife and waits until his wife returns from work to stab her can be found guilty of committing first-degree murder. A man who gets into a fight and uses a knife to kill another person could likely be charged with second-degree murder because he lacked the requisite premeditation.
Self-defense is one of the most common defenses used to justify an unlawful killing. To prove self-defense, it must be shown that the defendant used a reasonable amount of force to avoid a reasonable fear of death or serious physical harm. The degree of force used must be equal to the anticipated threat.
Another justified defense against murder includes the defense of others. This defense can be used if the accused person protected another person from serious physical harm and the person truly believed that the intervention was justified. Similar to self-defense, the degree of force that the accused person used must be equal to the anticipated threat and the anticipated threat of death or serious physical harm must be reasonable.
Robbery rates in Tennessee
Tennessee’s robbery rates are also higher than the nation’s average, but not by much: the U.S. averaged 74 robberies per 100,000 people in 2020, and Tennessee’s rate was 81 per every 100,000. Of the four categories of violent crime, robbery accounted for the lowest numbers.
Robbery is the crime of theft with the use of violence or the threat of violence. Although it is compared to burglary, the act of robbery is established if the offender attempts to threaten the victim with physical harm, or physically harms the victim, in the process.
One of the defenses against a robbery offense is duress. If a person performs an action that he or she would not normally perform under illegal circumstances, the person can use duress as a potential defense in court. Illegal circumstances include coercion, pressure, threats, violence or the threat of violence.
The average numbers for rape are on par with the U.S.
The rates for sex crimes are similar across the U.S. and Tennessee: about 38 per 100,000 people. Rape is defined as nonconsensual sexual penetration, and there are four classifications:
- Rape, as defined as above
- Aggravated rape, where another party contributes to the injuries of the victims
- Statutory rape, where the victim is under the age of consent (there are different variables depending on age)
- Rape of a child, where the victim is between four and 12 years old
This offense is committed through the act of force, intimidation, or threats.
The most common defense option is arguing that the sex was consensual, but other defense may apply based on the exact circumstances of the incident.
The most common violent crime in Tennessee is aggravated assault
Of all the violent, felony crimes tracked by the FBI, the highest rates were for aggravated assault. On average, the U.S. has 280 aggravated assaults per 100,000 people. In Tennessee, that rate is 543 per 100,000 people. In 2020, there were 37,750 offenses reported to various law enforcement agencies.
Aggravated assault charges often involve the use of a deadly weapon, but that is not always the case. The difference between an assault charge and an aggravated assault charge is the degree of injury the alleged victim experiences. Aggravated assault charges are reserved for those with serious bodily injuries. This affects how a Sevierville criminal defense attorney might counter the charges.
If we cannot seek an outright dismissal of your charges, we may argue that the “serious” injuries are not actually serious, and the crime is – at worst – a misdemeanor. We may also argue that you acted in self-defense or on behalf of a loved one.
Few experiences are more frightening than being accused of a crime. But you are presumed innocent under the law – and the right Sevierville criminal defense attorney can ensure that this right is upheld. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we defend your rights under the law when you stand accused of a crime. Please call 865-428-8780, or submit our contact form to make an appointment or to request an in-custody visit. We are proud to protect clients in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge, and throughout the Tri-Cities area.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.