The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Reference Number: MTAS-316
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: September 24, 2016
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The Tennessee Constitution provides that no fine shall exceed $50 unless it is assessed by a jury. Municipal courts do not have statutory authority to hold jury trials. The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the constitutional limitation on fines applies to penalties for municipal ordinance violations, which are punitive in nature rather than remedial. City of Chattanooga v. Davis and Barrett v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, 54 S.W.3d 248 (Tenn. 2001). It has been recommended that all penalties for municipal ordinance violations be limited to $50 pending further direction from the courts.

The schedule of fines can be established by the governing body, but most cities leave the amount of the fine, within the limits described above, to the discretion of the city judge.