When you’re arrested, you are pulled into a system of trained professionals. These professionals seek a conviction. Law enforcement and District Attorneys work together to bring charges. And when you’re arrested, the full weight of state lines up to build a case against you.
If you don’t know your rights, simple mistakes can make you look guilty, whether you are or not. You need someone on your side to help you move through the minefield. To help even the odds.
Here’s what to expect. When you are booked, you may be subject to further investigation. The police may try to search your property, ask you questions, or collect hair or blood for testing. Some of these require your consent, others require a warrant signed by a judge. Refusal to cooperate with a warrant may be used against you. Depending on circumstances particular to your situation, your best bet might be to ask for a lawyer before speaking to law enforcement. Even friendly questions can open the door to conversations that make you look guilty. My general advice is to keep quiet, but be respectful of law enforcement. If they try to get you to answer questions, just politely ask for a lawyer.
In Tennessee, you have a right to hearing on your charges within 10 days if you are in jail, and within 30 days if you are out of jail. Making bond gives the state 30 days to get the preliminary hearing. In practice, this limit is not always enforced. Delay is often good for the defendant, so it usually pays to reset a case if you can make bond.
In most circumstances, you have a right to a preliminary hearing, as stated in the case State v. Waugh. Sometimes, though, charges can be taken straight to a grand jury, serving in place of a preliminary hearing. Most lawyers agree to represent you through a preliminary hearing, and require a new agreement to represent you beyond that point.
After the preliminary hearing, your case will move to Criminal Court (often called Big Court). Depending on where you are, you may have to call the clerk’s office for that county after a grand jury has convened to see if you’ve been indicted. Otherwise, you may be arrested—even if out on bond.
From here, your lawyer can request discovery, and you can learn what the State has against you. You can see what they are using to make their case. At this phase, you will have a chance to negotiate with the State, and to accept or reject an offer. If you reject the State’s offer, your next step is to prepare for trial.
At this point, you will need to discuss your rights with your lawyer. You will need to go over any defenses you may have, and scrutinize the conduct of law enforcement. This may give a basis to file certain motions that could help your case. It will also help develop a theory of defense. By now, you should have a sense of how strong or weak the case is against you. A lawyer can help you navigate your options.
Finally, a caveat. Though this information is generally applicable as of this writing, the laws change, and circumstances differ. This advice may be a good starting place in a general sense, but if you face criminal charges, or are making decisions, you should not rely on this information. Instead, seek qualified legal advice particular to your situation. If you would like to speak to us about your situation, click over to our contact page to start the conversation today.