THE BARNES & Fersten Criminal Defense Lawyers in Knoxville TN

Award Winning Client Service, Proven Results

Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyers

A criminal charge can derail your life – but it doesn’t have to.

John Barnes, Brandon Fersten, and Oscar Butler, Attorneys

If you’ve recently been charged with a crime, you know the experience can be frightening and overwhelming. You are probably concerned about what happens next, what effect the charge will have on you and your family, and what you can do so that the consequences don’t derail your life. This page will introduce you to our Knoxville criminal defense lawyers and how we can help.


Barnes & Fersten believes it’s important that you do not have to go through this process alone. We practice criminal defense to help people just like you and take great pride in delivery high quality service both inside and outside the courtroom. We have years of experience navigating the criminal justice system on behalf of clients with a proven track record of success. We strive to always keep our client informed and involved in their case and to treat each individual the way we would want a family member treated in their shoes.


 At Barnes & Fersten we have dedicated our entire practice to criminal defense. We do not dabble in personal injury, real estate, wills, or any other area. We do so to make sure we can stay at the cutting edge of our industry and provide our clients the best possible defense in every case.


You are presumed innocent, even after being arrested and charged. It is up to the State of Tennessee to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you are guilty if they want a conviction. There are numerous ways to challenge evidence in court and to defend against criminal charges.

Defending a Criminal Charge - the Barnes & Fersten Way

A few of the numerous considerations, strategies, and defense we use for our clients every week include:

Thoroughly and independently investigating the State’s claims

Too often people in all areas of the criminal justice system assume what is written in a police report or search warrant gives an accurate and complete picture of the alleged crime. As experienced Knoxville criminal defense lawyers, we’ve found that that is rarely the case. Only with significant investigation into the facts, by the use of video and audio of what happened, 911 calls, witness statement’s, our client’s own account, and by requesting additional information and documents can a clear picture of what occurred be painted. Even after exhaustive investigation there will often be questions, but it remains up to the State to prove what they claim and a good investigation makes a world of difference in defending a criminal charge.

Challenging the legality of how evidence was gathered and seeking suppression of evidence

One of the most important jobs of a good criminal defense attorney is to protect a client’s constitutional rights. You have many rights, and one of the most significant in our opinion is the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, including the right to not be arrested without sufficient evidence. Evidence can and should be scrutinized to determine how it was obtained, what the police knew before stopping a vehicle, searching a person, home or business and before making an arrest. The types of challenges that can be raised vary but this is a consideration in how to best defend nearly every case we take.

Utilizing and documenting evidence that contradicts the charges

In many cases there will be evidence available that the State or police did not know about prior to the charge or that was simply failed to be collected. It is your Knoxville criminal defense lawyer's job to ask the right questions to determine what other evidence is out there that may be helpful to your defense and then to go get that evidence. Examples could include medical records, business and tax records, surveillance recordings or unknown witnesses. In defending your case it is important that we have all the evidence we can to correctly evaluate, strategize and advise you about the best way to handle your specific situation.

Learning and conveying your individual circumstances and history

It may surprise you to learn that the facts of what happened that led to your arrest are not the only facts that will be considered in deciding your case. Factors that are different in each case often come into play in resolving charges. These include things like your employment, licensure, education, criminal history or lack of criminal history, civic engagement, family situation, state of health and many more. Learning these things from the outset of our representation helps us to be the most effective possible in advocating for you.

Negotiating a resolution you are happy with

It’s no secret that very few cases, as a percentage of those charged, ever makes it to trial. There are many good reasons why both you and the State may want to reach a negotiated resolution, including a plea agreement or agreement to dismiss upon some conditions. As your Knoxville criminal defense lawyer, our job is to provide you with the best possible options to resolve your case and to help you make the best decision on how to do so for you and your family. That decision will always remain yours, but we will do everything we can to get you those options and help you understand all the alternatives and possibilities.

Trying your case to a jury and asking them to return a not guilty verdict

When you are charged with most crimes, you have a right under the State and federal constitution or our State’s statutes, to a trial by a jury of your peers. Twelve people from the community will come together to decide, after hearing proof, whether the State has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Trials are the bedrock upon which our criminal justice system is founded and we will prepare relentlessly to present your case in the best light possible to a jury.

Attorney John Barnes and Attorney Brandon D. Fersten standing outside

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DUI – Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence is one of the most common cases we defend at Barnes & Fersten. We’ve attended numerous continuing education course, including those put on by the National College for DUI Defense and the course police officers go through before enforcing DUI laws. DUI cases raise a number of issue that are less common in other criminal cases, like blood and breath testing, field sobriety testing, and the effect of medications and drugs on impairment, that require significant experience and training. At Barnes & Fersten, our Knoxville criminal defense lawyers pride ourselves on our defense of DUI cases of all types across east Tennessee.

Woman facing group of people in courtroom

State Felony and Misdemeanor Drug Cases

State drug cases range from simple possession of small amounts of marijuana to complex criminal conspiracies involving the distribution of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine. The consequences of these cases can be significant and we treat them as such. Determining the strength and weaknesses of the State’s informant evidence, law enforcement evidence, and expert evidence, along with thorough investigation and motions practice makes up the backbone of an effective drug case defense.

Federal Drug and Gun Cases

Federal drug cases, while charging similar crimes to state cases, are often very different. Many of these cases will include multiple defendants at varying levels of culpability, sometimes in different geographic locations and traveling across state lines, and also often charge gun crimes or even deaths that are allegedly the result of drugs that have been sold. Federal cases also require a Knoxville criminal defense lawyer with in depth knowledge of the different procedure involved in federal court, including the United State Sentencing Commission Guidelines which are not used in state court.

Microphone in courtroom
Woman facing group of people in courtroom

Domestic Assault

Domestic assault cases present serious issues for our clients and their loved ones. Much of the time no contact orders are put in place against the wishes of both the alleged victim and the client. These orders can keep family apart for significant periods of time and upend the lives of all involved. In many cases no one believed involving the police in a situation they did not believe was criminal would result in their entanglement with the justice system, but it did anyway. These cases can arise as misdemeanors or serious felonies and must be handled with the highest level of care and competence by an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Violent Crimes

Violent crime cases are amongst the most serious cases that can be brought against an individual. From murder and manslaughter to assault, kidnapping, others, these cases can be devastating. Challenging the state’s case at every turn and tracking down all the information and evidence available can be the difference in winning and losing in these cases. Violent crimes, if convicted, often carry long sentences and restrictions on parole and must be defended aggressively.

Person holding black handgun
Woman holding handcuffs next to man in prison uniform

Theft and Shoplifting

Theft and shoplifting cases are charged based on the value of what was alleged to be stolen. Cases charging less than $1,000 lost are misdemeanors. Any amount over $1,000 is a felony and the penalties increase as the amount of loss goes up with the most serious charge being a class A felony for loss over $250,000 and carrying 15-60 years in prison. While few theft cases are that large, all are serious and require close scrutiny to determine whether a theft actually occurred, if so, who stole what, and what was the item stolen worth. Theft can be charged both for physical items, theft of good, and as theft of services. While these issues are sometimes straightforward, in our years of practicing criminal defense law we have seen numerous times when they were not.

Fraud, Identity Theft, and White Collar

Fraud and white collar cases often arise in professional or business settings and, like theft cases, involve financial harm to others. Many cases are brought against people in positions of trust or authority like executives, bankers, public officials, or and other managers. Allegations can include embezzlement, bribery, money laundering, and even bribery. These cases can be complex and can involve large numbers of documents and records, sometimes requiring the use of experts like a forensic accountant to aid in our investigation and defense. Many identity theft cases involve allegations of unauthorized use of credit and debit cards or checking account information and can also be complicated to prove.

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Front of Juvenile Division building

Juvenile Defense

The purpose of the juvenile justice system is different from the adult system, in that the juvenile court’s mission is to rehabilitate, often through alternative forms of punishment. Depending on the seriousness of the charge, the result of a juvenile case can include “informal adjustment” in which charges are ultimately dismissed, up to “transfer,” meaning the case is sent to adult court even though the defendant is a juvenile. Our goal as Knoxville criminal defense lawyers in representing juveniles is to protect them from the negative impacts of a juvenile charge and setting them up for a positive future. This can be achieved both by the traditional means of defending a charge and by convincing a prosecutor or court that it is in everyone’s best interest to support the child and family, rather than imposing harsh punishment.

What Our Customers Say

What’s next - Hiring a Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal charge can be a very stressful and overwhelming experience. You may be feeling scared, confused, and unsure of what to do next. You may be worried about the impact a conviction will have on your life, your job, and your family.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are experienced criminal defense attorneys who can help you fight the charges against you and protect your rights.

At Barnes & Fersten, we have a team of experienced Knoxville criminal defense attorneys who are dedicated to providing our clients with the best possible representation. We will work tirelessly to investigate the facts of your case, build a strong defense, and fight for the best possible outcome for you.

We understand that being charged with a crime can be a very difficult time in your life. We are here to help you through this process and to provide you with the support you need.

If you have been charged with a crime, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We will review your case and discuss your options with you. We will fight for your rights and help you get the best possible outcome.