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Reference Number: MTAS-316
Reviewed Date: 12/20/2021

The Tennessee Constitution provides that no fine shall exceed $50 unless it is assessed by a jury. See, Article VI, Section 14, Constitution of the State of Tennessee. 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. See generally, T.C.A. § 16-18-302(a)(2).

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.