Supreme Court Rules Appellate Courts Must Review Trial Courts’ Sentencing Decision for Abuse of Discretion

September 26, 2012

Knoxville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion which is expected to limit the prospects of a reduced sentence in the appeal of a criminal case, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s three-year sentences of Susan Renee Bise of Greene County.

In September of 2008, construction tools and other items were stolen from a residence in Greene County. After several months of investigation, police learned that Susan Renee Bise had been involved in the burglary, along with her son and a third individual. Later, she was convicted of facilitation of aggravated burglary and two counts of theft. On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals reduced each of Bise’s sentences to the statutory minimum of two years after determining that the trial court had mistakenly used an enhancement factor to increase the sentence.

Interpreting the 2005 legislative amendments to the state sentencing laws, which were enacted in response to a series of decisions by the United States Supreme Court, the Tennessee Supreme Court adopted a standard similar to that in the federal courts, holding that a sentence imposed by a trial court, despite the mistaken use of an enhancement or mitigating factor, should be reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard with a presumption of reasonableness so long as the trial court complied with the basic principles of sentencing.

To read the State of Tennessee v. Susan Renee Bise opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade visit