Constitutional Challenge to State Statute

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

State v. Booker, No. E2018-01439-SC-R11-CD, p. 7 (Tenn. Nov. 18, 2022).

We review questions of constitutional interpretation de novo without presuming the correctness of the lower court’s legal conclusions. State v. Burns, 205 S.W.3d 412, 414 (Tenn. 2006) (citing S. Constructors, Inc. v. Loudon Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 58 S.W.3d 706, 710 (Tenn. 2001)). Ruling on a constitutional challenge to a statute is often an exercise in judicial restraint. We must be careful not to impose our own policy views on the matter or overstep into the General Assembly’s realm of making reasoned policy judgments. See Stein v. Davidson Hotel Co., 945 S.W.2d 714, 717 (Tenn. 1997). Similarly, when construing statutes, “it is our duty to adopt a construction which will sustain [the] statute and avoid constitutional conflict if any reasonable construction exists that satisfies the requirements of the Constitution.” Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Inc. v. McWherter, 866 S.W.2d 520, 529 (Tenn. 1993).

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

State of Tennessee v. Crowson, No. M2021-00321-CCA-R3-CD, p. 17-18 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 27, 2022).

The defendant challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1307(b) which makes it a crime for a person to unlawfully possess a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17- 1307(b)(1)(A). “Issues of constitutional interpretation are questions of law, which we review de novo without any presumption of correctness given to the legal conclusions of the courts below.” Waters v. Farr, 291 S.W.3d 873, 882 (Tenn. 2009) (citing Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Morgan, 263 S.W.3d 827, 836 (Tenn. 2008)). This Court is “charged with upholding the constitutionality of statutes where possible.” State v. Pickett, 211 S.W.3d 696, 700 (Tenn. 2007). “In evaluating the constitutionality of a statute, we begin with the presumption that an act of the General Assembly is constitutional.” Id. (quoting Gallaher v. Elam, 104 S.W.3d 455, 459 (Tenn. 2003)). In doing so, “[w]e must ‘indulge every presumption and resolve every doubt in favor of the statute’s constitutionality.’” Gallaher, 104 S.W.3d at 459 (quoting State v. Taylor, 70 S.W.3d 717, 721 (Tenn. 2002)). “This presumption applies with even greater force when the facial constitutional validity of a statute is challenged.” Id. (internal citation omitted).

However, “[i]t is well-settled in Tennessee that ‘courts do not decide constitutional questions unless resolution is absolutely necessary to determining the issues in the case and adjudicating the rights of the parties.’” Waters, 291 S.W.3d 882 (quoting State v. Taylor, 70 S.W.3d 717, 720 (Tenn. 2002)). Furthermore, “a person has no standing to contest the constitutionality of a statutory provision unless the provisions he claims to be
deficient has been used to deprive him of his rights.” State v. Purkey, 689 S.W.2d 196, 201 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1984) (citing State v. Vanzant, 659 S.W.2d 816 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1983); State v. Pritchett, 621 S.W.2d 127 (Tenn. 1981)).


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