It is not uncommon for individuals to be charged with a DUI, sex assault, drug possession, or any other criminal offense. Whether you’ve been accused of a misdemeanor or felony, the penalties that result from a criminal trial often have a lasting effect on your life.
Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Murfreesboro can prevent you from unfairly facing fines, jail time, and a damaged reputation. Criminal charges are serious, and it is imperative that you don’t go through the criminal trial process alone. If you’re facing criminal charges, reach out to our Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys for a free case evaluation and find out your rights and options.
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What Are Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Tennessee?
Under the legal principle of presumption of innocence, a person accused of any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. Such a person is taken through the criminal justice procedure which includes all court hearings and the activities that happen from the moment the person is alleged to have committed a crime until the conclusion of the case. These activities include:
- Preliminary court hearings
- Indictments by a grand jury
- Court arraignment
If you are facing criminal charges in Tennessee, you have constitutional rights that should be provided during the criminal justice process. These rights fall under the various Amendments, and include the following:
The rights of a criminal defendant under the Sixth Amendment include the following:
- Right to a public and speedy trial by an unbiased jury
- Right to be informed of the charges made against them and the evidence presented
- Right to be present or have their lawyer present at the time witnesses testify against them
- Right to have an attorney and present witnesses in defense.
Under this Amendment, the rights of a criminal defendant are protected in the following ways:
- It necessitates a pretrial hearing in front of a grand jury where a felony has been committed.
- It protects a criminal defendant against double jeopardy. It follows that you can’t be prosecuted a second time if you’re cleared of a crime following a trial.
- It protects a suspect from having to provide answers to a question or talking about a crime that will leave the suspect exposed to prosecution.
- It promises just proceedings when you’re likely to lose your liberty, property, or life.
- It guarantees compensation at market value if your private property is seized by the government.
Under this Amendment, a criminal defendant is protected from unreasonable seizures and searches by the police as it sets the legal necessities for search warrants.
If you have been accused of a criminal offense, the Eighth Amendment:
- Protects you from unreasonable and inconsistent bail that may be set by a judge
- Requires that a judge make a sentence that fits the crime
- Outlaws cruel or uncommon punishment by government players
This Amendment requires that all states allow for due process of law to take place in all events, including criminal laws. In regards to a criminal accusation, a defendant has the right to:
- A trial
- Present evidence
- Cross-examine witnesses present against them
- Testify, depending on their decision
- Issue a subpoena for people to come to court.
The Fourteenth Amendment also requires states to ensure equal protection for all citizens. For instance, a criminal defendant can’t be given a different prison sentence solely because of their race or sex.
What Is a Misdemeanor vs. a Felony in Tennessee?
Under Tennessee criminal law, crimes are grouped into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors refer to less serious crimes, designated as class A, B, or C, and are generally punishable by up to a year in jail. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors and are usually punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, or both.
Class B misdemeanors are less serious, and are punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both. Aggravated criminal trespass is often classified as a class B misdemeanor. Class C misdemeanors are the least serious in Tennessee, are punishable by a fine of up to $50, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
A felony refers to a more serious crime, which is punishable by at least one year in jail. According to Tennessee law, felonies are designated as class A all through to class E. Class A felonies represent the most serious after crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. These are punishable by 15-60 in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Class B felonies usually result in 8-30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000. Another category is Class C felonies, which include aggravated assault, and are punishable by 3-15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Class D felonies are punishable by 2-12 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. In Tennessee, possession of 10-70 lbs. of marijuana is a class D felony. Class E felonies are the least serious in Tennessee and are punishable by 1-6 years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.
Should I Consult a Lawyer Before Speaking to the Police?
Before you can speak to a law enforcement officer, it is important that you contact a lawyer. You may be a target of an investigation, or the information you provide could be used against you and lead to an arrest – even if you’re innocent. If the law enforcement officers are investigating you, you have no right to know that you’re under investigation. If the Police are questioning you about a crime, it is best that you consult a Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney before speaking to them.
What Is the Habitual Offender Law?
The Habitual offender law is a state law that may punish persistent criminal offenders, or those previously convicted of crimes, more severely. Usually, the sentence under habitual offender law is greatly enhanced and may be more than the maximum sentence of the crime in some circumstances.
How Can a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?
If you have been charged with a crime in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, you will need a criminal defense attorney to help you with the following:
A criminal defense attorney is trained to look for unique elements in a case and note the arguments that can reduce a conviction for a criminal charge. This way, they can organize these facts in a way that is consistent with a working legal theory. Criminal defense lawyers also understand how the various facts in a case can be crucial in a case.
Sometimes, a plea bargain to eliminate charges or reduce a sentence may be your option. Criminal defense lawyers have had many years of negotiating cases and can work with the district attorney to reduce your charges, potential sentencing, consequences, or even have your case dismissed. Having a criminal defense lawyer helps you find ways of having your case resolved without necessarily pleading guilty while limiting the risk of being convicted at a trial.
Ability to Gauge Case Outcomes
A criminal defense attorney is able to evaluate the charges, evidence presented against you, and the best criminal defenses and provide a realistic assessment of the case prospects. This enables them to advise you on the best step to take to reduce the maximum sentence for the crime or get the best possible outcome in the case.
Knowledge of Law & Court Rules
If you work with a Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney, you’re working with a person that possesses a Juris Doctorate degree, which means that they understand criminal law and the criminal justice system. They are also trained to understand the various aspects of criminal law as well as court procedures. Through their knowledge, they can find and exploit loopholes or inconsistencies in the system in your favor.
Criminal defense attorneys are seasoned professionals and understand what goes on during trial and how best to represent the defendant. Coupled with their impeccable negotiation skills, criminal defense lawyers are the best way to guarantee the best possible outcome in your trial.
What Is the Cost of Legal Representation?
Criminal cases will be different in Tennessee, and lawyers will charge differently depending on the issues surrounding the case. However, a criminal defense lawyer will charge about $150 on average to represent you in court following criminal charges.
Is There a Benefit to Having a Private Attorney vs. a Court-Appointed Attorney?
If you’ve been charged with a crime and can’t afford to secure a private attorney, a public defender will be appointed for you upon request at no cost. Since you have no choice on which court-appointed attorney will represent you, it may be difficult to have the best representation as these attorneys often have heavy caseloads, are overworked, and are underpaid.
Having a private attorney guarantees you the best outcome in your criminal case. A private lawyer will have a more focused caseload and will build an effective defense, go through your case thoroughly to ensure that your case is dismissed or that you get your charge reduced. A private attorney also tends to have more resources than a public defender, meaning that they can secure an expert witness to testify in your support.
Can You Represent Yourself?
If a judge deems you legally competent, then you can represent yourself in a criminal trial. However, it is not advisable to represent yourself in a criminal trial, especially when the punishment you’re likely to face if convicted is severe.
Should I Accept a Plea Bargain?
In a plea bargain or a plea deal, a criminal defendant agrees to resolve a criminal case with the prosecutor by pleading guilty and accepting a more lenient penalty or a lesser charge on their criminal record rather than taking the case to trial. A plea bargain is particularly favorable if the original charge could potentially lead to huge fines and substantial jail time.
By accepting a plea deal, you may get out of jail much earlier than you would have if your case goes to trial. A plea bargain may consist of time served or may not include jail time. Even if it includes jail time, your sentence may be shorter than the time you’d have served while waiting for trial.
A plea record is also better on your criminal record than a conviction and may help you reduce or avoid jail time in the event of another crime. A plea bargain that reduces a felony to a misdemeanor is also useful as it helps you preserve your civil rights and retain your professional license
Appealing a Conviction in Tennessee
After conviction, you can raise questions about the validity of your sentence in a direct appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals. The court may decide to listen to oral arguments at this stage or at any other stage of the case. After appealing, a lawyer from the Criminal Appeals Division of the Office of the Attorney General files a responsive brief on the State’s behalf.
A 3-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals gives an opinion after reviewing the briefs, records from the trial court, and the arguments presented. The court then issues a decision, and any unsatisfied party may appeal this decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court. At this stage, the review of appeals will be granted or denied at the discretion of the Supreme Court.
Contact Nash Law Today for a Free Consultation
Regardless of your criminal charges, you have rights that protect you until you’re taken through the entire criminal justice process. Due to the laws that govern criminal cases, it is advisable to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer for the most favorable outcome.
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, talk to a Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney today to find out your rights and the best way forward in your case. Contact Nash Law online or at 615-627-4529 for a free consultation.