Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Finds Career Criminal Not Entitled to Alternative Sentencing

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Finds Career Criminal Not Entitled to Alternative Sentencing



The defendant, William Henry Wiggins, was convicted in Davidson County Circuit Court of felony possession of a controlled substance, in this case oxycodone, and a violation of the state’s sex offender registry. He was ordered to serve a six-year sentence in prison which he then appealed claiming insufficient evidence and an excessive punishment. The Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the case and affirmed the trial court’s initial decision. 

When Wiggins was indicted for possession and a sex offender registry violation the grand jury indictment indicated his five prior convictions for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The evidence presented at trial consisted of testimony by officers that they observed a car where Wiggins was the passenger cruising a gas station in search of drugs. When the officers pulled the car over and ran the driver’s and passenger’s names against their database they discovered Wiggins had a warrant out for a sex offender registration violation. When he was arrested, Wiggins admitted to having some pain pills given to him by the driver of the car in exchange for gas money. 

On appeal Wiggins claimed that the state failed to show that he knowingly possessed a controlled substance, believing them to be “pain pills” and not a controlled narcotic. The Court pointed out that Wiggins did not dispute that he possessed the pills or that oxycodone is a controlled substance, he only claimed that he did not know what he was given was oxycodone. The Court disagreed, citing evidence of a prescription label found in the car Wiggins was arrested in and Wiggins’ own statements to officers concerning the pills he had in his pocket. 

Regarding Wiggins’ contention that the length of confinement was too severe, the Court noted that the trial court found him to be a Range III, career criminal and thus not a good candidate for alterative sentencing. The trial court considered the possibility of probation but rejected it in favor of the minimum prison sentence allowed for his crimes. The Court of Criminal Appeals noted that Wiggins does not admit to having a drug problem, making rehabilitation next to impossible. Given his status as a career criminal, the Court found Wiggins’ initial sentence proper.
To read the full opinion, click here.

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