Criminal Defense FAQs
Here, we provide responses to some of the most common questions we receive from clients about Criminal Defense. To get more specific information about your criminal case in Tennessee, you can also contact Burks & Ogle to schedule a Consultation. You can do so by filling out our online form or calling 865-522-4964 .
What is an Arraignment?
When a person is arrested in Tennessee, they have a right to know what the charges are against them. An arraignment is your initial appearance in open court. Its purpose is to advise the defendant of their right to know the charges against them, as such, the judge formally reads the charge or charges to a defendant and asks the defendant how they plead. A person charged with an offense has the right to plead guilty, not guilty, or waive formal arraignment and reserve entry of a plea in Tennessee.
What is an Indictment?
A defendant can be charged first by law enforcement authorities by warrant. The issuance of a warrant usually results in an arrest or service of the warrant upon an individual already preliminary taken into custody by law enforcement. Upon arraignment and a preliminary hearing in a general sessions court, a judge may find probable cause exists to send the case to a grand jury.
A grand jury is a group of impartial, randomly selected citizens who hear from the prosecution and witnesses - not the defense. Then, they decide whether sufficient evidence exists for the defendant to be charged. If the grand jury determines probable cause exists to find the crime alleged has occurred, even though they have not heard from the defense at this point, the defendant is then formally indicted in criminal court and subsequently arraigned.
A defendant's case may also be sent directly to the grand jury in Tennessee by way of a presentment or indictment if no warrant was issued by law enforcement authorities. If the grand jury determines probable cause, the defendant is then formally indicted in criminal court and subsequently arraigned.
What is Bail?
Bail is a sum of money a defendant pays to be released from custody and remain in the community while their criminal matter is finalized. It is a form of pretrial release.
Bail acts as a deposit to ensure a defendant attends their court hearings. A defendant posts bail by paying the required amount to the court. The court holds this money until the court hearing.
‘Bail' and ‘bond' are often used interchangeably. Both allow a defendant to be released from custody while their charges are pending. But there is an important distinction between them.
A bond acts as a guarantee, rather than a deposit. It's a promise made to the court by a third party, usually a bond company, to pay the bail amount on the defendant's behalf if they fail to attend court or breach another condition of their release. In return, the defendant pays the bond company a service fee, usually around 10 to 20% of the bail amount.
If the defendant fails to attend a court date, they forfeit the money and may be sent back to jail. If a defendant complies with bail, the court returns their money at the end of their matter.
Often, with the help of a skillful attorney, a bail hearing can be requested with the court and conditions of bail, or the amount of bail, may be amended in a favorable way for a defendant.
How Does Court Work?
Once a court date is set, it is very important that you attend court on time and that you are dressed in a neat, professional manner. While in court, pay careful attention to the instructions of your legal counsel and only speak through your legal counsel so as not to incriminate yourself or place yourself in a worse position before the court.
Should I Go to Trial or Accept a Plea?
During a jury trial, a group of people (jurors) hear the evidence and legal arguments, decide the facts of the case, and determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.
The judge is not involved in determining the verdict in a jury trial. Their role is to oversee the proceedings to ensure they follow the correct procedure and rule on any legal issues.
The right to a trial by a jury is protected by the Sixth Amendment, which says in a criminal case, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”.
In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, if a jury is convinced that there is no other reasonable explanation that can be drawn from the evidence presented to them during the trial, they must find the defendant guilty. Alternatively, if there is a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt for the charged offense, the jury must find the defendant not guilty.
In a plea deal, or plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a criminal charge in exchange for certain concessions from the prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor may seek a lesser sentence, reduce the seriousness of the charge, or withdraw some of the original charges.
By accepting a plea deal, your case won't go to trial. A plea deal is effectively a guilty plea and an acceptance of the allegations against you. Once a plea deal has been accepted and you enter a plea, the judge will then sentence you.
It's difficult to withdraw a plea once you have accepted a plea deal. But in some situations, you may be able to enter a conditional plea. This occurs when the judge rules against you in a pre-trial motion and you want to appeal this ruling, but do not want to go to a jury trial. If you succeed in your appeal against the interim ruling, you can then withdraw your plea.
Facing a criminal charge can be stressful. So, it can be tempting to accept the first plea deal the prosecution offers you to put an end to the matter. But plea deals are a negotiation process and, with the help of a skilled attorney, you may be able to reach an agreement that's more favorable to you.
Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney in Tennessee Today
If you've been charged with a crime, contact one of our criminal defense attorneys at Burks & Ogle today for a Free Consultation. We can answer your questions, put together a strong case, and fight for your rights, your freedom, and your reputation. Call 865-522-4964 today or fill out our online form today.