Answers from a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney
Don't face an arrest or criminal accusation on your own. At the Clarke Law Firm, our legal team provides thorough guidance for clients throughout Murfreesboro, TN.
Read some answers to frequently asked questions below or call (615) 645-1501 to schedule a free initial consultation today!
Can I talk to my friends and family about what happened in my criminal case?
No, it is not advisable to discuss your situation with friends and family. In general, anything you state to another individual is not privileged. This means that the information may possibly be used against you. Any communication with your attorney is privileged.
Do I have to allow the police to search my home or my car?
Generally no, unless the police have a signed search warrant. In most circumstances, you can refuse to consent to a search by the police without a warrant. Even if the officer threatens to hold you until a search warrant is obtained, it is seldom a good idea to willingly consent to a search.
There are circumstances in which the police may search your home or car without a warrant. These include:
- Exigent circumstances
- Arrest in a vehicle
- Plain view
If your rights against an unlawful search were violated in any way, a knowledgeable Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney may be able to have any evidence found in the unlawful search thrown out.
Do I need to hire a criminal defense attorney?
It is wise to be represented by competent legal counsel. All criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel. Due to the complexities of the criminal justice system, negotiating a successful plea-bargain on your own behalf with the District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney is very difficult.
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is a court hearing where a criminal defendant is advised of the charges being brought against him or her. During this proceeding, the criminal defendant is asked to enter an initial plea of either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. After the defendant's plea is entered, the court will set a review and/or settlement date.
A criminal defendant is normally required to attend the arraignment. If the defendant fails to attend the arraignment, additional criminal charges, fines, and/or a warrant may be issued by the court.
What if I'm arrested and charged with a crime?
The United States provides its citizens many rights which are protected by the courts. If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense, make sure to document exactly what occurred prior to the arrest, make notes of all statements or comments made to you by any law enforcement officials and/or any comments you make to the police. If possible, obtain a copy of the arresting police report. Your attorney should be given all this information to assist with your criminal case.
In Tennessee, how long will my criminal conviction be on my record? Can it be erased?
Felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions are a permanent part of an individual's criminal record. In fact, any previous felony (and, in some circumstances, a misdemeanor) conviction may be cited to increase a criminal defendant's punishment on subsequent convictions. Of note, if the original criminal charge was reduced to a lesser offense, the criminal history will still indicate the original charge, but will note the charge reduction. In Tennessee, an arrest can be removed if the individual meets certain requirements for expungement.
What is the Miranda warning and what happens if the police fail to read me my Miranda rights?
The Miranda warning (or Miranda rights) is a warning given by U.S. police to a criminal suspect in police custody or in custodial interrogation before the suspect is interrogated to preserve the admissibility of his or her statements against them in criminal proceedings.
This requirement to advise a criminal suspect of his or her Miranda rights is necessitated after an individual has been arrest or placed in police custody (not free to leave). If you were not properly Mirandized by the police, a criminal defense attorney may be able to block (or suppress) your statements from appearing as evidence in court, which may affect the outcome of your case.
Felony vs. misdemeanor: What is the difference?
A distinct difference between felonies and misdemeanors is the length of time a criminal defendant will be held in custody after a conviction. Felonies are usually the most serious crimes in criminal law. A felony is any crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison or death. A misdemeanor, on the other hand, has a sentence that may not exceed 11 months and 29 days in length, and the criminal defendant is usually incarcerated in a local jail.
Felonies and misdemeanors have different classes (or levels) associated with the crimes. Felonies can range from a Class A to a Class E; the Class A being the most serious and therefore may have the harshest punishment. Misdemeanors can range from a Class A to a Class C; the Class C being the least serious.
What if I decline to answer questions or give a statement about an alleged crime to the police?
The United States Constitution protects an individual's right to refuse to answer questions that might incriminate him or her in any legal proceeding. This protection falls under the Fifth Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court has held that “The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances” (Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17, 2001). The investigating authorities may try to convince you that not cooperating with the police may cause trouble or consequences later, but the police are not concerned with the defendant's best interest. The police many even promise leniency for cooperating, but remember that the police can distort the truth when they are trying to elicit incriminating statements. Law enforcement and the prosecution are not on your side when they are trying to build a case against you.
What if a Tennessee police officer requests to interview me in a criminal case?
If a police officer contacts you for an interview in regards to a criminal case, politely decline the request to speak to him or her and then immediately consult an attorney. A Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney may be able to respond to the law enforcement's request on your behalf so that your liberty is not in jeopardy. Do not who assume that it is okay to give an interview because you are innocent of any unlawful activity. Through statements made during a seemingly innocent interview, you may end up being charged with an offense or being convicted of a crime you did not commit. Statements can be misconstrued and cause problems.
Bail or bond: What is it and how does it work?
The terms bond and bail both mean the amount of money a court requires from the criminal defendant in order to release him/her from jail. These terms are often used interchangeably in most areas of Tennessee. Unless the defendant is charged with a capital crime, every Tennessee criminal defendant is allowed to have a bond/bail set in his or her specific case.
Following are ways bonds can be posted:
- In full to the court (referred to as a “cash bond”)
- Through a bonding company (requiring 10% of the bond, plus a processing fee paid to the bondsman)
- Posting a property bond
In Tennessee, bonds are posted to promise that the criminal defendant will appear in court on his/her court date(s). At the conclusion of the criminal case, the bond may be refunded if the defendant obeyed the terms of the bond and appeared as required on every court date. The ramifications of missing a court date is that the posted bond funds may not be refunded to the person who posted the bond on the criminal defendant's behalf. If the bond is posted through a bonding company, the 10% of the bond and the processing fee paid is not refundable.