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Many government & military personnel rely upon maintaining a certain level of security clearance to continue in their career. We are often asked how divorce, & especially adultery, may affect a security clearance and thus your career.
Some people view adultery as the “kiss of death” to security clearances, because it may be difficult to prove to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals that an employee who engaged in adultery does not pose a threat to national security given the individual’s susceptibility to coercion related to the affair. The Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information include Guideline D, which lists disqualification for “sexual behavior that causes an individual to be vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or duress” and Guideline E, which cites “personal conduct or concealment of information about one’s conduct, that creates a vulnerability to exploitation, manipulation, or duress.” It also includes Guideline B relating to Foreign Influence if the affair involves a foreign national.

Additionally, certain organizations have the ability to initiate Disciplinary Actions for Misconduct upon discovering an employee or officer has engaged in consensual adulterous behavior. Whether that action could result in a citation, suspension, or outright termination seems to vary. The case of Miller v. Department of the Army (2005), for example, looked at a married army specialist who initially told the police she was raped by a co-worker. That claim was later investigated and determined to be unfounded. As a result, she was suspended for 60 days, because her conduct was “unbecoming” by being “unattractive, unsuitable, or detracting from the employee’s character.”

Employees can also be removed for improper conduct if their extramarital affair interferes with their agency’s mission. It may not matter whether the affair occurred only when the employee was off-duty or whether it was committed with a co-worker. That was the issue in Brown v. Department of the Navy (2000), where a manager at the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Department had an affair with a Marine’s wife. The U.S. Court of Appeals found the employee’s conduct ran contrary to the Department’s mission and eroded trust and confidence in the Department’s ability to perform its duties.

Finally, adultery may be tantamount to committing a crime, which could impact employment, clearances, and (in rare cases) your freedom. According to the New York Times, about 23 states have criminalized adultery. In some states it’s a misdemeanor; in some states it’s a felony.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (​931) 516-9009
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, law enforcement officials often make mistakes, whether from lack of knowledge or training or in an over eager attempt to curtail criminal activity. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that you will have access to a criminal defense attorney while a search is being conducted of your home. Therefore, it is beneficial to know the principles of a home search so that you can later discuss any possible violations of your Fourth Amendment rights with your criminal defense attorney.

Under most circumstances, police cannot search your home without a warrant unless you give consent. Read our previous post of January 27, 2016, onconsentand avoiding a little known pitfall. It is rarely in your best interest to consent to a search without a warrant. If you do give consent and it is later found that the police mislead you regarding who or what is being investigated, any evidence found may be excluded. The police officer does not have the obligation to tell you that your consent could lead to a criminal prosecution.

If the police do have a warrant, the Fourth Amendment requires that it must describe the place that will be searched and what evidence they will seize. Essentially, the warrant must be specific enough that any officer would be able to determine the exact area described and the exact evidence that they are looking to seize. For example, if the warrant allows a search of the home, the officer is probably out of bounds if he or she also searches your detached storage shed. Further, the inspection must be confined to spaces that could possibly contain the relevant evidence. If an officer is searching for a gun, he or she cannot search kitchen drawers that are obviously too small to contain the gun he or she is searching for.

Please note that any evidence that is in “plain view” of the officer conducting the search, even if it is not specifically listed in the warrant, is subject to seizure and most likely admissible in court.

Rule 41 of Tennessee’s Rules of Criminal Procedure governs warrants and searches and seizures. It states, in part:

1) Who May Execute.The search warrant may only be executed by the law enforcement officer, or one of them, to whom it is directed. Other persons may aid such officer at the officer’s request, but the officer must be present and participate in the execution.

(2) Authority for Forcible Entry.If, after notice of his or her authority and purpose, a law enforcement officer is not granted admittance, or in the absence of anyone with authority to grant admittance, the peace officer with a search warrant may break open any door or window of a building or vehicle, or any part thereof, described to be searched in the warrant to the extent that it is reasonably necessary to execute the warrant and does not unnecessarily damage the property.

(3) Timely Execution.The warrant must be executed within five days after its date.

(4) Leaving Copy of Warrant and Receipt.The officer executing the warrant shall:
(A) give to the person from whom or from whose premises the property was taken a copy of the warrant
and a receipt for the property; or
(B) shall leave the copy and receipt at a place from which the property was taken.

Having your home searched is most likely a very upsetting event. It is always advisable to speak with a criminal defense attorney, especially if evidence was seized or if you feel that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated.Ryan K. McFarlandof McFarland Law Office, located in Clarksville, Montgomery County, has thorough knowledge of andexperiencewith the limitations placed on police by the Constitution and by state and federal law. We are very happy to discuss your situation with you. Consultations are free of charge.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (​931) 516-9009
When we think of a DUI, we generally think of having too much to drink and then being pulled over while driving. While that is certainly the cause of the majority of charges, there are other ways that you could be charged with a DUI. It is certainly best to be aware of these scenarios beforehand.

First,you don’t have to be drinking to be charged with a DUI in Tennessee. Essentially any substance that impairs your central nervous system could make you guilty of a DUI. You can be guilty of a DUI while under the influence ofa number of substances besides alcohol, including illegal drugs,certainover-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs that have been legally prescribed to you.


Next,you don’t have to be in an “automobile”to be charged with a DUI in Tennessee.Tennessee Code Section 55-10-410,the leading DUI statute, refers to “any automobile or other motor driven vehicle”. So, the issue becomes, what is a “motor driven vehicle”? This could become important in several scenarios. Let’s say that it is a hot summer day and have a few drinks while mowing your lawn with a riding lawnmower (probably not the best idea, by the way). Then, feeling charitable, you decide to ride your mower in the road just a few houses down to cut your neighbor’s lawn. You could be charged with DUI.

Indulge us for just a moment. How far can this statute reach? Unfortunately, no attorney can tell you for sure. Does your child have one of those motorized vehicles, maybe a Barbie Jeep that goes three miles an hour? Although there is no case law that addresses this particular scenario, it is theoretically possible that taking the Barbie Jeep for a spin on your dead-end street after a few drinks may land you a DUI charge because under the law it could be considered a “motor driven vehicle.”If you may be impaired in any way the safest course it to stay away from anything that has a motor. It might end up as a funny story to tell your grandchildren one day but would definitely not be worth the legal trouble to be pulled over and arrested for a DUI in your kid’s Barbie Jeep.

Further,you don’t even have to be driving to be charged with a DUI in Tennessee. You may think you are doing the responsible thing and sleeping in your car for awhile before driving home. The question is whether you are in “physical control” of the automobile or other motor driven vehicle. The Tennessee Supreme Court set the precedent on this issue when the Court upheld in 1993 theDUI conviction ofan individual who fell asleep in his automobile with the keys. Again, if you may be impaired, and it has a motor, just stay away from it.

This brings us to the combination of Tennessee’s DUI statute mentioned above and Tennessee Code Section 55-10-201 which defines “parties to a crime”.You can be charged with DUI as a passenger if you have allowed an impaired person to drive your car. Specifically for this article, it defines who is a party to the crime of DUI: “[e]very person who commits, attempts to commit, conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of any [DUI] . . . is guilty of [DUI].” This scenario will often come into play when, for instance, you have been drinking with a friend and said well-meaning friend says, “Give me the keys to your car. You’ve had more to drink than I have.” Then your friend who nicely offered to drive you home is charged with DUI him/herself. That is something to think about before getting into your car with an impaired friend behind the wheel.

Finally, we come to Tennessee State CodeSection 55-10-202, which makes it a Class C misdemeanor when “the owner, or any other person, employing or otherwise directing the driver of any vehicle to require or knowingly to permit the operation of the vehicle upon a highway in any manner contrary to law.” This should certainly be cause for concern if you allow someone to borrow your vehicle if you think they might be intoxicated.

Which of these ways to be charged with DUI surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments below. Your feedback helps us to tailor our future blogs to better serve our readers.

In summary, knowledge ofTennessee DUI law may prevent you from unintended, unpleasant consequences. Obviously, drunk driving is not the only way to be charged with a DUI. If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge for any reason, you should seek aknowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney.McFarland Law Office, located in Montgomery County Tennessee, would be happy to assist you and work with you for a dismissal or reduction in charges. Consultations are always free and we will examine your unique circumstance and explain your options.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (​931) 516-9009
It is always a confusing, emotional time when a beloved pet is accused of biting a person. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year in the United States. Along with the personal turmoil can come disastrous consequences both to you and your dog. There is the possibility of heavy financial responsibility and confinement, testing or even euthanasia of your pet. This is particularly true if you own a breed that is falsely perceived as vicious, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Luckily, the Tennessee Code outlines the steps you should take as a responsible pet owner to protect both you and your pets from such consequences.

Dog bite law for Clarksville, Montgomery County Tennessee can be found in the Tennessee Code Section 44-8-413. This law requires dog owners to do two things. First, we have a duty to keep our dog under reasonable control at all times. Second, we must prevent our dog from running at large. The law tells us that “running at large” means that a dog is wandering onto the premises of another, or along roads or any other public place. We all see this daily in Clarksville. Any owner who either fails to keep their dog under reasonable control (to include a dog running loose on the owner’s unfenced front lawn) or allows their dog to wander around can be held liable for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by that dog. In addition to the state code, dog owners in Tennessee should read and comply with both your city and county laws, which can be viewed here.

Luckily, there are some common sense exceptions to a dog owner’s liability in Tennessee. There is no liability for a dog that is doing police or military work or protecting someone from being attacked or is securely confined in a kennel or something similar. There is no liability if the victim provoked the dog. Also, there is another very important exception. Tennessee Code reads in part:

(c) (1) If a dog causes damage to a person while the person is on residential, farm or other noncommercial property, and the dog's owner is the owner of the property, or is on the property by permission of the owner or as a lawful tenant or lessee, in any civil action based upon such damages brought against the owner of the dog, the claimant shall be required to establish that the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities.

This exception realizes that dogs are protective of their personal spaces and of their family. Even the most mild-mannered pet can bite if it feels threatened by a stranger intruding into the dog’s territory. If your dog bites a person who is on your property at the time, that person bears the responsibility to prove that you either knew or should have known that your particular dog (not the breed in general) has dangerous tendencies.

In short, as responsible pet owners, we should keep our dog under reasonable control at all times, not allow the dog to wander from our property, and read and follow our city and county laws. Following these steps will largely protect us from a dog bite lawsuit in Tennessee and will protect our beloved pets from potentially devastating and unnecessary consequences.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (​931) 516-9009
The short answer is, “Not Always.” We need to look at the relevant statutes and one important case from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Tennessee Code Sections 55-8-142 and 55-8-143 govern the use of turn signals while driving. The law states that turn signals must be used at intersections, when turning onto a road, or when changing lanes in the event any other traffic may be affected by this movement. Under the law, then, if no other vehicles could possibly be affected by your turn (for example, there is no traffic directly around your vehicle), then a turn signal is not required. If that is the case, failure to use a turn signal is not a justifiable reason for you to be pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

In the case of State v. Gonzales (Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, 2000), Gonzales was stopped by police for failure to use a turn signal and subsequently convicted for simple possession of cocaine. Gonzales testified that there was no traffic directly around his vehicle when he was turning. The officer admitted that he himself was not affected by the turn. The Appeals court found that the stop was not valid and the conviction was reversed.

Obviously, the best practice is to always use a turn signal to avoid the possibility of a traffic stop. However, under Tennessee law and case history, you are not required to do so if no other traffic may be affected by your movement.


As with any traffic stop, the preliminary issue is whether your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure have been violated. If so, any evidence found as a result of that violation must be disregarded. Because the issue is very fact specific, you should consult a criminal defense attorney to protect your best interests. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges due to a traffic stop, McFarland Law Office would be happy to examine every aspect of your particular circumstances to determine if the stop was in violation of your Constitutional rights.

We are available for a free consultation to review your legal issue and explain your possible defenses.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com 1 (​931) 516-9009
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us against “Unreasonable Searches and Seizures.” An officer may only search your vehicle where there is probable cause to suspect criminal activity, or if you give consent to a search.

How, then, can it be possible for you to be pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, such as a broken taillight, and suddenly discover that a trained canine is circling your vehicle and sniffing for drugs without your consent? Unfortunately, many police departments in Tennessee, and throughout the United States, routinely use drug dogs in this questionable matter by employing some subversive tactics and with a little help from a few Supreme Court decisions.


In (Rodriguez v. United States) 2015:
the Supreme Court ruled that that police cannot hold you in a traffic stop any longer than is necessary to perform the routine tasks of checking your registration, writing a citation, or issuing a warning. In other words, unless you agree or there is probable cause of criminal activity, the police cannot make you wait for a canine unit to arrive. The Court held that if an officer unnecessarily prolongs the stop, your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizure has been violated. However, as previously stated, many police departments have instituted subversive procedures to get around the Court’s decision. For example, a certain geographical location may be targeted for supposed drug activity. Officers may be instructed to pull over vehicles for any minor infraction that might have been otherwise ignored. The twist to this scenario is that a canine drug unit is stationed and waiting very close by. Thus, the drug dog could arrive on the scene quickly. Since the original officer did not need to prolong the stop to wait for the drug dog, the Court’s decision tells us that this is not on unreasonable seizure and thus does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Alright, you might say, the police have figured out how to use drug sniffing dogs without being guilty of “Unreasonable Seizure,” but the Fourth Amendment also protects me against “Unreasonable Search” and surely a drug dog sniffing around my car simply because I forgot to use my turn signal is obviously an “Unreasonable Search,” right? Common sense dictates that you would be correct. The Supreme Court, however, has ruled otherwise.

In (Illinois v. Caballes) 2005:
the Court held that a drug dog sniff during a routine traffic stop is not a search under the Fourth Amendment. Thus, your Constitutional protection against “Unreasonable Searches” does not apply. The logic is difficult to follow but to simplify the Court’s opinion, official conduct that does not violate your “Reasonable Expectation of Privacy” is not a search under the Fourth Amendment. The possession of contraband, the Court wrote, is not a situation in which you can reasonably expect privacy. The Court relied upon a 1983 decision, (United States v. Place), which reasoned that a dog sniff would not require you to open your luggage (or in this case, your vehicle) and thus would not expose non-contraband items. Thus, if you do not have contraband, your expectation of privacy was not violated, and if you do have contraband you had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the first place.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with very little protection during the actual traffic stop. If wish to refuse a search or you don’t want to consent to have your car sniffed by a drug dog, say so clearly, and then ask for permission to leave. If your traffic violation has already been fully addressed, then it is likely you are being unlawfully detained. Please take note of the time you were pulled over, the duration of the stop, and the precise sequence and timing of events. This is not the time to challenge the authority of the law enforcement officer. If the officer refuses to allow you to leave and a drug dog gives a positive indication, it will be your defense attorney’s job to challenge the lawfulness of your arrest or to suppress any evidence seized as a result of such violations. Here is a link to some of the possession/ drug cases that I have handled in Montgomery County General Sessions Court, some of which are cases in which the officer did not respect the Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, and as a result I was able to have their cases dismissed.

• What are your thoughts on this topic? Specifically, do you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court decisions above or the police tactics discussed?

• Do you think a drug dog sniffing your car without probable cause or your consent should constitute a “Search” under the Fourth Amendment?


If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com 1 (​931) 516-9009
We are often asked if it is better to consent or to refuse to take a chemical test when you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Tennessee. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, as it involves a complex interplay between a DUI charge and a violation of Tennessee’s Implied Consent Law.

Tennessee’s Implied Consent Law is found in Tennessee Code Section 55-10-406. It applies to every county, including a DUI in Clarksville, Montgomery County.

This Law States, In Part:
Any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of that person's blood, a test or tests for the purpose of determining the drug content of the person's blood, or both tests. However, no such test or tests may be administered pursuant to this section unless conducted at the direction of a law enforcement officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving while under the influence of alcohol, a drug, any other intoxicant or any combination of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants…

Therefore, the Implied Consent Law is triggered if you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI. It is important to note that this is a separate charge from a DUI. Thus, if you refuse to take a breath or blood test in Montgomery County then you are looking at a possible charge for violation of the implied consent law in addition to a charge of DUI. Violation of implied consent is civil in nature, and is not a criminal charge. However, violation of the implied consent law may cause you to have your drivers’ license revoked for one year, and can be more severe for subsequent violations.

Refusing a chemical test does not mean that you will automatically be found innocent of a DUI due to lack of evidence because you could also be charged with DUI in the officer’s opinion based upon the field sobriety tests that may have been conducted at the scene. In light of the way a DUI and implied consent charge work together, it is hard to say that refusal of a blood or breath test is always the best policy because sometimes it is and sometimes it is not.

It is important to know beforehand that if you do submit to a blood test, you are entitled to request a subsequent independent test of your own, but your attorney will have to do this for you during the court process. In Tennessee, you do not have the right to speak with a DUI Criminal Defense Attorney in Montgomery County before deciding whether or not to submit to a breath or blood test, so knowledge of your rights and the consequences of your choices before the incident occurs is very important.

There is one other important consideration that you should discuss with your DUI Criminal Defense Attorney if you are charged with violation of implied consent. Tennessee Code requires the following:

Any law enforcement officer who requests that the driver of a motor vehicle submit to either or both tests, for the purpose of determining the alcohol or drug content, or both, of the driver's blood, shall, prior to conducting either test or tests, advise the driver that refusal to submit to the test or tests will result in the suspension by the court of the driver's operator's license; if the driver is driving on a license that is cancelled, suspended or revoked because of a prior conviction as defined in § 55-10-405, the refusal to submit to the test or tests will, in addition, result in a fine and mandatory jail or workhouse sentence; and if the driver is convicted of a violation of § 55-10-401, that the refusal to submit to the test or tests, depending on the person's prior criminal history, may result in the requirement that the person be required to operate only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device. The court having jurisdiction of the offense for which the driver was placed under arrest shall not have the authority to suspend the license of a driver or require the driver to operate only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device pursuant to § 55-10-417 who refused to submit to either or both tests, if the driver was not advised of the consequences of the refusal.

You must be advised by an officer of the consequences of your refusal, and you will usually be asked to sign a form verifying the officer so instructed you. If you are not so advised, your DUI Criminal Defense Attorney can likely prevent the revocation of your license. Lastly, it is up to the officer which form of chemical testing to offer you. Please consult with a knowledgeable, experienced DUI Criminal Defense Attorney if you find yourself facing these charges.
  • Are you thinking about getting a divorce or are in the middle of contentious divorce proceedings?
  • Do you think that if you could only present the judge with some hard evidence of your spouse’s bad behavior you might get a better settlement, or custody, or more child support?
  • Are you thinking of “electronic eavesdropping,” such as reading emails or recording conversations? If so, there are a few things you should know.

The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Act of 1986 made unauthorized access to and interception of the private communications of others illegal, and today this can include listening to, recording, or reading communications from traditional telephone wiretaps whether on “landline” or cordless phones, email, voicemail, pagers, chat logs, and video, even if the other person is your spouse. If you can imagine any other way of “electronic” eavesdropping or recording, just assume it’s also on the list. For instance, “guessing” your spouse’s email password and reading messages there could be ruled an invasion of privacy.

In Tennessee, electronic surveillance, spying, and snooping can certainly have legal consequences. Under the Tennessee Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, it is a Class D felony to intentionally intercept or access unauthorized communications, and this includes getting someone else to do it for you. If you violate this law, you could be fined $100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000, whichever is greater. The court could additionally grant punitive damages and attorney’s fees. In Tennessee, you CAN record a conversation with another person without that person’s knowledge or consent, because Tennessee is a “one party” state in this matter. Other states, however, are “two-party” or “all-party” states, meaning that all parties have to know that a conversation is being recorded. Be aware that calling from Tennessee and recording a conversation with someone who happens to live in a two-party state could get you into serious legal trouble.

Talk with a lawyer before you consider electronic snooping; this might save you from doing something you might regret for a long time.


​ Tennessee lost one of its greatest legends today. John Jay Hooker, Tennessean of the Year 2015, passed away in Nashville at the age of 85.

I won’t even attempt to describe his incredible life. A simple internet search will give you all the details of his varied business interests and his colorful legal and political career, from working with the Kennedy family to his chain of fried chicken restaurants that he owned with Minnie Pearl. That is all public record. Instead, I’d like to speak personally about the man who became a dear friend.

I had the honor to work very closely with John Jay throughout his battle against retention elections for judges in Tennessee. He believed they were unconstitutional. He was by far the biggest champion for Constitutional rights that I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and he would gladly remind anyone and everyone that his great-great grandfather William Blount signed the United States Constitution and convened the constitutional convention that formed the state of Tennessee. Whether or not you agreed with his political stance, you would certainly be enthralled by his passion and his fiery lectures which he managed to deliver with all the manners and charm of the consummate Southern Gentleman.

To be sure, he demanded excellence. Since I used to practice law myself, he would grill me about the meaning of every word, every idea, every point of his arguments. I was often exhausted because he insisted on starting work at 5 a.m. every morning, instantly ready to begin dictating letters, memos and Court pleadings. (He very politely declined when I offered to teach him to type.) He gave me his pocket sized Constitution and said he would buy another one for himself (he carried it with him daily). It was well worn, dog-eared, underlined and dearly loved by John Jay. I still carry it with me today. The notes and questions written in the margins will forever remind me of his brilliant legal mind.

He loved to take me out on long lunches, to show me the “real Nashville” as he would say. The lunches would tend to last about two hours because he seemed to know everyone in town and everyone wanted to come shake his hand.

His final crusade began last year when he was diagnosed with cancer. He began to lobby for a “death with dignity” law to be passed in Tennessee. He told me that he wanted to fight for the constitutional rights for his beloved citizens of Tennessee and when he could no longer fight then he wanted to leave the ring with dignity. To be honest, I didn’t believe that such a legend as John Jay would ever die. And in many ways, he hasn’t. He lives on in the legacy of those that he has inspired. He lives on in his copy of the Constitution that I carry.

Most of the pictures you will see of him today and in the future will be pictures of John Jay the politician in suit and tie and sometimes his favorite white hat. But I will share with you my favorite personal picture of him. He’s eating ribs and corn on the cob at Swett’s in Nashville and talking with me about his next legal maneuver. Rest easy, John Jay. Those of us you left behind will continue to carry the torch of justice. I know that right now you are probably hunkered over a big slab of ribs and talking to your great-great-granddaddy about Constitutional theory.
It is always a confusing, emotional time when a beloved pet is accused of biting a person. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year in the United States. Along with the personal turmoil can come disastrous consequences both to you and your dog. There is the possibility of heavy financial responsibility and confinement, testing or even euthanasia of your pet. This is particularly true if you own a breed that is falsely perceived as vicious, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or pit bulls. Luckily, the Tennessee Code outlines the steps you should take as a responsible pet owner to protect both you and your pets from such consequences.

Dog bite law for Clarksville, Montgomery County Tennessee can be found in the Tennessee Code Section 44-8-413. This law requires dog owners to do two things. First, we have a duty to keep our dog under reasonable control at all times. Second, we must prevent our dog from running at large. The law tells us that “running at large” means that a dog is wandering onto the premises of another, or along roads or any other public place. We all see this daily in Clarksville. Any owner who either fails to keep their dog under reasonable control (to include a dog running loose on the owner’s unfenced front lawn) or allows their dog to wander around can be held liable for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by that dog. In addition to the state code, dog owners in Tennessee should read and comply with both your city and county laws, which can be viewed here.

Luckily, there are some common sense exceptions to a dog owner’s liability in Tennessee. There is no liability for a dog that is doing police or military work or protecting someone from being attacked, or is securely confined in a kennel or something similar. There is no liability if the victim provoked the dog. Also, there is another very important exception. Tennessee Code reads in part:

(c)(1)If a dog causes damage to a person while the person is on residential, farm or other noncommercial property, and the dog's owner is the owner of the property, or is on the property by permission of the owner or as a lawful tenant or lessee, in any civil action based upon such damages brought against the owner of the dog, the claimant shall be required to establish that the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities.

This exception realizes that dogs are protective of their personal spaces and of their family. Even the most mild mannered pet can bite if it feels threatened by a stranger intruding into the dog’s territory. If your dog bites a person who is on your property at the time, that person bears the responsibility to prove that you either knew or should have known that your particular dog (not the breed in general) has dangerous tendencies.

In short, as responsible pet owners, we should keep our dog under reasonable control at all times, not allow the dog to wander from our property, and read and follow our city and county laws. Following these steps will largely protect us from a dog bite lawsuit in in Tennessee and will protect our beloved pets from potentially devastating and unnecessary consequences.