Knox County District Attorney General - Charme P. Allen

DA's Office Organizational Chart

The DA’s Office Organization as outlined in this chart is effective as of January 1, 2017.


District Attorney General ‐ 6th Judicial District
Office Organizational Chart Effective January 1, 2017

Team Justice Courts, Units, & Case Parameters

Juvenile Court

Juvenile Court is a court of exclusive jurisdiction over children under the age of eighteen (18) who violate state or municipal law or who are unruly, abused, neglected, or dependent. Juvenile Court utilizes rehabilitative efforts to address criminal behavior and to reunify families whenever possible. Juvenile offenders may be placed on probation and/or be required to complete classes and programs that target the needs and behaviors of youth. When necessary, extremely severe and serious juvenile offenders are transferred to adult court, where the juvenile case is then handled as an adult case. The District Attorney’s Office works with Juvenile Court to prosecute offenders and to seek transfer of the more serious cases. The District Attorney’s Office also works collaboratively with the Court and the Knox County School System in an effort to identify and address children who are truant as well as parents who fail to send their children to school.

General Sessions Courts

The criminal justice process has three stages in Tennessee.  The first stage takes place in the General Sessions Courts.  In Knox County, the General Sessions Criminal Courts are divided into Misdemeanor Court (First Sessions), DUI Court (Second Sessions), Felony Court (Third Sessions), and Cited/Bonded Arraignment Court (Fourth Sessions). (There is also a Fifth Sessions Court that has jurisdiction over civil matters.)

Five (5) Judges preside over all matters in the each of the General Sessions Courts.  These Judges are popularly elected for eight (8) year terms and rotate through the courts on a five-week schedule.  The current Sessions Court Judges are Judge Charles A. Cerny, Jr., Judge Geoffrey P. Emery, Judge Patricia Hall Long, Judge Andrew Jackson VI, and Judge Tony W. Stansberry.

At the General Sessions level, a defendant charged with a misdemeanor has four options:
  1. Plead guilty to the charge(s);
  2. Have a preliminary hearing where in order for the case to proceed to the Grand Jury, the State must show probable cause that the defendant committed the crime;
  3. Send the case to the Grand Jury without a preliminary hearing; or
  4. Have a bench trial to determine defendant’s guilt or innocence. (The State must agree to defendant‘s request for a bench trial and also must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt).
At the General Sessions level, a defendant charged with a felony has four options:
  1. Have a preliminary hearing where in order for the case to proceed to the Grand Jury, the State must show probable cause that the defendant committed the crime;
  2. Send the case to the Grand Jury without a preliminary hearing;
  3. Enter into an agreement with the State to plead guilty to a lesser, misdemeanor charge (only if the State offers him/her this choice); or
  4. Enter into an agreement with the State to by-pass the Grand Jury proceedings and plead guilty to the felony charge in Criminal Court. This type of plea is called a “Plea by Information.”
The General Sessions Court cannot accept pleas on felony charges.
Cited/Bonded Arraignment Court

In the Cited/Traffic Sessions Court, prosecutors address cases where individuals are cited to appear in court rather than being arrested. Cited cases include traffic offenses, driver’s license suspension/revocation, animal control, hunting and boating violations, and others.  The Bonded Arraignment Court is a court of first appearance for those who have made bond after an arrest or who were cited and told to appear for booking.  The prosecutors assigned to these two dockets deal with many first-time offenders, compassionately helping them navigate their way through the criminal justice process.

Misdemeanor Sessions Court

In this court assistant district attorneys manage caseloads consisting only of cases that have a maximum punishment of 11 months and 29 days of probation or jail time and a maximum $2500 fine.  These types of cases are charged by warrant, criminal summons, or misdemeanor citation for offenses such as simple assault, theft or vandalism $1000 or less, prostitution, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and others. These prosecutors work in a fast-paced environment to assist the general public daily by skillfully and efficiently handling a huge volume of cases.

Felony Sessions Court

Felony Sessions prosecutors are tasked with dispensing justice for both misdemeanors and felonies.  Felony cases are classed as more serious criminal offenses, and they have a minimum punishment of at least one year on probation or in jail.  Examples of the types of cases that these prosecutors address are aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, theft or vandalism over $1000, vehicle and business burglaries, and others. The Felony Sessions DAs strive to minimize the Criminal Court trial dockets by thoroughly assessing the cases before them, working jointly with the investigators, victims, and witnesses, and by reaching plea agreements that negate the need for jury trials.

DUI Sessions Court

DUI Sessions Court prosecutors handle crimes involving intoxicated or impaired drivers. They collaborate on a daily basis with their counterparts in the DUI Special Prosecution Unit to ensure that plea offers are consistent and fair throughout the entire criminal process. Many of the cases require obtaining search warrants for blood tests and evaluating the results of breathalyzer tests and field sobriety tests. DUI prosecutors also handle Felony Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender law violations. DUI laws have been established based upon years of ever-changing case law, and as such, these Assistant DAs have received specialized training and spend much time and resources researching DUI laws to apply them to their current cases.

Grand Jury

The Grand Jury is a body of thirteen (13) citizens of Knox County who hear evidence of crimes and determine whether there is probable cause to require the defendant to stand trial in Criminal Court. If the Grand Jury finds that there is probable cause to require the defendant to stand trial, then the Grand Jury returns a True Bill. If the Grand Jury does not find probable cause, then the Grand Jury returns a No True Bill.

Cases reach the Grand Jury in one of two ways – either from the General Sessions Court or directly from the District Attorney General’s Office. Cases originating in the General Sessions Courts become Indictments if the Grand Jury returns a True Bill. Cases that the District Attorney’s Office initiates in the Grand Jury become Presentments if the Grand Jury returns a True Bill. Presentments require the defendant to be arrested and to make a bond because these cases are not a continuation of an existing case from General Sessions Courts. Indictments are a continuation of an existing case, so usually the original bond will continue to be accepted.

Prosecutors assigned to the Grand Jury serve as legal advisors to the grand jurors, providing the tools necessary for the grand jurors to make informed decisions.

Criminal Court Divisions

After the Grand Jury has returned an Indictment or Presentment, the defendant will appear in Criminal Court for arraignment.  Arraignment is an initial appearance where a defendant is formally advised of the charge(s) against him/her.  At this stage a defendant may enter a plea of guilty, a plea of not guilty, or reserve entry of plea until a later date. If the defendant has not already hired an attorney, the Court will inquire as to whether he/she qualifies financially for an appointed attorney.  If so, an attorney will be appointed for the defendant.

There are three (3) divisions of the Knox County Criminal Court which are currently presided over by Judge Steven W. Sword in Division I, Judge Bob R. McGee in Division II, and Judge G. Scott Green in Division III.  The Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office assigns every case to one of the Criminal Courts.  At arraignment, the judge may schedule a series of court dates for each case including a trial date, a plea deadline, and a deadline for filing or arguing motions.  A defendant does not have to plead guilty to any charge, but he/she may have the opportunity to enter into a plea agreement with the State if he/she chooses to do so. If a defendant does not enter into a plea agreement, then the judge will schedule his/her case for trial.

Both the State and a defendant have a right to a jury trial. The trial jury is composed of twelve (12) citizens who will hear the case and decide the defendant’s guilt or innocence based upon the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.  A defendant may also waive his/her right to a jury trial and request a “Bench Trial.” If the State also agrees to a bench trial, then the judge alone will hear the defendant’s case and decide whether or not the defendant is guilty.  When a case is set for trial, the Criminal Court Clerk will issue subpoenas to witnesses ordering those witnesses to appear and testify at trial.

Soon after a defendant is either found guilty at trial or accepts a plea agreement, the judge will impose a sentence.  When a judge imposes a sentence, he/she announces his/her decision regarding the formal legal consequences of the defendant’s criminal charge.  The judge can order a defendant to serve a period of time in confinement, on probation, on an alternative sentence, or a combination thereof.  At sentencing, victims may be given the opportunity to address the Court and provide a Victim Impact Statement.

Special Prosecution Units General Case Parameters

Major Crimes Unit

  • Crimes involving violent Class A & Class B Felonies

Career Criminal/Gang Unit

  • Crimes committed by known gang members or career criminals

Felony Drug Unit

  • Felony drug offenses

Domestic Violence Unit

  • Crimes involving a domestic abuse victim as defined in TCA 39-13-111(a)

Child Abuse Unit

  • Crimes involving a victim who is younger than 18 years of age

Elder Abuse Unit

  • Crimes involving a victim who is 60 years of age or older or a vulnerable adult

White Collar Crime Unit

  • Financial crimes and cases involving public corruption

DUI Unit

  • Crimes involving intoxicated or impaired drivers

Connect

VINE

Seal
City County Building 400 Main Street
Suite 168
Knoxville, TN 37902