Appeal Denied for Man Seeking Re-Sentencing in Rutherford County Under "Drug-Free Zone Act" Amendments

Dec 01, 2023 at 10:00 am by WGNS News

TDOC Mugshot of Stephen Novatne

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN - In a recent legal development, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee addressed an appeal filed by 36-year-old Stephen Novatne, who had previously pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine in a drug-free zone. The initial sentencing, overseen by Judge James A. Turner in Rutherford County Circuit Court, mandated an eight-year prison term. Novatne later sought re-sentencing under the 2020 amendments to the Drug-Free Zone Act, but the trial court rejected this motion, citing that it was not in the interests of justice.


Despite the trial court's decision, Novatne faced an additional setback in the appeals process. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed his appeal, highlighting that he lacked the right to appeal the denial of re-sentencing under the Drug-Free Zone Act. The Clerk of the Appellate Courts formally recorded this denial late last month, further solidifying Novatne's original eight-year sentence, which began upon his arrest in December of 2018. His sentence to prison is set to continue until December 2026. Upon release, Novatne will be 39-years-old.

Reflecting on the case's origins, the arrest of Mr. Novatne took place in late 2018, leading to Novatne's guilty plea for possessing methamphetamine with intent to deliver in a drug-free zone, a Class B felony. The subsequent amendments to the Drug-Free Zone Act allowed individuals sentenced before September 1, 2020, to request re-sentencing. However, the trial court's denial of Novatne's motion underscored the significance of the original plea agreement, which included various concessions from the State. The court reasoned that granting re-sentencing would provide Novatne with an unfair second chance, given the State's prior voluntary dismissal of multiple charges against him.

Despite the legal complexities, the recent decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals solidifies the original sentence, leaving Novatne to serve his term as initially determined.

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