I was born actually in South Carolina and lived there, went through all through elementary school there in South Carolina. Then in junior high and high school, I lived in Utah and Idaho. I came back to Tennessee, went to the University of Tennessee Law School, worked for myself since then. I do exclusively now criminal defense. It’s what I really enjoy and passionate about. All of middle Tennessee is growing very rapidly. Murfreesboro is at the top of that list. It’s a great area. With growth, it obviously brings a lot of good things, but it also brings more crime. Between Murfreesboro and Smyrna, that’s probably 90% of my cases. I will handle other cases in the adjacent surrounding counties so I will handle some cases in Bedford County, Shelbyville. I also handle cases in Coffee County, which is Manchester. I’ll handle cases in Cannon County, which is Woodbury, and Wilson County. I’ll also take some cases in Davidson County, but the vast majority of what I do is here in Rutherford County, that’s, like I said, probably 90%.
You call my law firm, you’re going to be able to talk to me. Lots of times, if you call a bigger law firm, you’re talking to an assistant. Then when you meet with them, you might meet with the head attorney in the firm, but then when you show up to court, you might not be dealing with that same attorney that you met with. They’ve not sent in an associate or someone you haven’t met with and now you’re dealing with someone in court that you’ve never met with before. If you hire me on the case, I’m a sole practitioner. I will show up. I’ll be handling your case from beginning to end. I try to establish a personal relationship with each one of my clients, because again, that’s the best way, Number 1, to keep them happy, which in the end ends up keeping me happy because everybody is getting along.
In the end, it also ends up frequently getting a better result for a person. If I know more about their personal life, then I can communicate better with the DA and use a lot of that information when I’m negotiating with the prosecutor. It definitely makes a big difference for a client hiring a local attorney, a local firm, for a Murfreesboro case rather than somebody up in Nashville that maybe comes down to Murfreesboro once a month. I do exclusively criminal defense. I deal with the same prosecutors on a daily basis, the same judges on a daily basis. They all know me. I know them. That can make a big difference in knowing what to expect in a particular case, what’s likely to happen, and then that also can affect your strategy in fighting the case because you know the players that are involved and you know what to expect in any given situation.
These files may have chatter, direction, production comments, etc. You want these to be clean and ready to publish, so leave all that out. We only want what’s said directly to the camera in answer to the question. Leave out off-topic stuff. Clean up grammar, make it clean. Name the audio file whatever the question is being answered.
My assistant is always here every day to take your call. Generally, almost every morning, I am in court. Then I’m in the office in the afternoons meeting with folks and returning phone calls and that sort of thing. When someone calls, nine times out of ten I’m able to call them back that day. It’s typically in the afternoon once I get back from court as far as getting them in to meet with me. Again, that’s typically in the afternoons. Usually, within a couple of days I can get them in. It’s going to depend, obviously, schedule on a day by day or week by week basis can vary depending on if I’ve got a trial that I’m in or that sort of thing, but usually, as far as getting them in for a consult, discuss their case within a couple of days I can get them in.
Simple possession is when someone is in possession of an illegal substance in a minor amount. If they had a large amount, let’s say someone had ten pounds of marijuana, for instance, they would be charged with a felony possession, not a simple possession. A simple possession is just a small amount for that person’s personal use. It can be simple possession of marijuana. That’s a very common one. It can be of any other kind of illegal drug, whether that’s methamphetamine or cocaine or it can be a prescription drug that that person doesn’t have a prescription for. We, obviously, on any criminal charge, my job is to help people stay out of jail, Number 1, and minimize any effects on their record, any permanent effects that they’re going to have because that will affect their job prospects going forward or voting rights or gun rights. It can affect a lot of different things. I take all those cases very seriously to try to minimize people’s consequences as best as possible. Generally speaking, people are much better with going to rehab and dealing with a drug addiction if they have it rather than getting thrown in a jail cell. It’s my job to help the clients, humanize the clients to the prosecutor to help them get a good result in that case rather than just going sitting in a jail cell which isn’t going to help any – is not going to help them or society in the long run.
Years ago, Tennessee went away from using breathalyzers. It’s not something that, if you get pulled over, it’s likely that you will be asked for that. What comes up more often is once you’re arrested and you’re taken to the jail, the officer will request that they get a blood sample and then that blood sample is what gets tested for your level of alcohol. That blood sample can take place actually directly at the jail or at a local hospital depending on the circumstance. Once you’ve been arrested and the cop asks you to give your blood, at that point, it’s no benefit to you to refuse. If you do refuse, what they will do is get a search warrant and then forcibly have it taken from you so it doesn’t do you any benefit in refusing. It will also entail an additional charge being placed against you for what’s called violation of implied consent for refusing that blood test. You’re better off just acquiescing and taking the blood test once it’s requested.
Domestic assault, so there’s a lot of confusion with that. A lot of people think that can be just between like a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. That is the most frequent way that that comes up, but it can come up with – have it come up with MTSU college students. It’s anybody who lives together or has had any kind of romantic relationship but it doesn’t have to be romantic. Again, it could be roommates, but it’s any kind of situation where parties live together and they get into some sort of altercation. That altercation can be physical by way of pushing somebody or hitting or slapping or it could be verbal threats.
One of the things that frequently happen when you get arrested for domestic assault, one of your bond conditions is going to be that you’re not allowed to return back to that residence until we get into court. Basically, that means you get arrested, you can’t go back to that residence, so you’ve got to go move in with mom and dad or get a hotel or find something temporarily while you’re waiting for a court date. That can be a permanent thing where you’re not allowed back to that residence or it can be a temporary thing that we can get into court within a couple of weeks and get those bond conditions modified potentially and get you back in the house if that’s what both parties want.
I do a lot of domestic assaults. Usually, those can be charged depending on the situation. It can be charged as a class A misdemeanor. That’d be what’s called a simple domestic assault with a maximum punishment 11 months and 29 days. It can be charged as a felony domestic assault. What makes it a felony is if either some sort of weapon is used, so a gun or a knife or any other kind of weapon, or if there is any kind of serious bodily injury, you punched someone and their nose was broken or something to that effect. If there’s some sort of serious bodily injury, it can make it aggravated domestic assault which makes it a C felony. The penalties are much harsher in that kind of scenario.
One of the things that we can do, you can do this previous to even the first court date, is you can go to do some anger management. If alcohol is involved, you could go do some AA meetings prior to the court date. Those are things that certainly can be used when I’m negotiating with prosecutor to try to work out a much more favorable deal for the client.
There’s always a chance. Certainly, that’s obviously a best-case scenario and something I’d ask for. To be honest, that’s less likely. That doesn’t happen – certainly, doesn’t happen in the majority of cases, but it can. It’s going to depend on – one of the things that I do when I get hired on a DUI case, I’m going to get a copy of the warrant. I’m going to get a copy of the video from the trooper’s vehicle. Then I’m going to get the blood results that will show the amount of alcohol and/or drugs in the person’s system. Depending on what I find out from that investigation, then that will determine whether or not you have a chance of getting it dismissed or not.
It’s going to depend on one of the things I’m looking at in the video, for instance, is if they had a valid reason to stop you. If you can prove that they didn’t have a valid reason to stop you, that you weren’t speeding or committing any other traffic violations, then that’s a case where you definitely can get it dismissed because they didn’t have a reason to stop you to begin with. Another way that it potentially can get dismissed is if the blood – your blood result comes back and you are under the legal limit for alcohol. There’s a couple of ways that can happen. It certainly does happen on occasion. It’s more likely that it doesn’t get dismissed but reduced, but certainly, there’s a lot of different factors at play. It can get dismissed. It can get reduced. In a worst-case scenario, you could be convicted of the DUI.
Tennessee in general is, I would say, harsher on crime than the average state. In July of this year, the legislature passed truth in sentencing, what they call truth in sentencing. They made certain significant number of crimes any type of violent crimes 100% crimes and they have very large penalties. Any kind of – definitely any kind of violent crime, the person is looking at a much lengthier prison sentence than they would in a lot of other jurisdictions, a lot of other states. Definitely on any kind of violent crime it’s very important for the client to hire a good attorney to represent them, try to keep them from going to prison for a long time.
Even though they’re from other states, Tennessee DUI laws are going to apply. They’re going to have to come to court obviously here in Tennessee. Then part of the – if you’re convicted of a DUI, part of the mandatory minimum punishments is that your license is revoked in Tennessee. Then Tennessee will notify your state, wherever state you’re from, which is then going to cause problems or revoke your license in your state. There is a way to get a restricted license in Tennessee and then you should be able to get a restricted license in your state. The logistics of how that happens is going to be different depending on if you’re from North Carolina or Georgia or whatever state you’re coming from. It could become very complicated. In those kinds of cases, it is definitely important that you hire an attorney, someone who’s handled a lot of DUIs and someone who has handled DUIs involving someone from another state because you’re going to definitely want to make sure that you can have a license so that when you get back to your normal life and whatever state you’re from that you can have a license and still get to work and do whatever you need to do in your daily life.
The vast majority of my cases do settle prior to trial. That would apply for all attorneys in general. Most cases don’t go to trial. Typically, what you’re trying to go is negotiate a favorable outcome. The cases that go to trial usually are either very serious charges that make it very difficult to come to any kind of resolution that would be minor. If someone’s charged with murder or rape or something to that effect, those are very serious charges, they’re less likely to settle and much more likely to go to trial. The more common things I get hired on, DUI or theft or domestic assault or simple possession, those types of things nine times out of ten are going to settle. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try them. I’ve definitely tried those types of cases. Certainly willing to do that and will do that in the appropriate case when it needs to happen, but for the majority of those types of cases, they will settle.
Common ones are cocaine or methamphetamine, any kind of illicit drugs. Those kinds of charges are more serious than a simple possession marijuana. They’re harder to deal with anyways. Obviously, on any criminal charge, my job is to help people stay out of jail, Number 1, and minimize any effects on their record, any permanent effects that they’re going to have because that will affect their job prospects going forward or voting rights or gun rights. It can affect a lot of different things. I take all those cases very seriously to try to minimize people’s consequences as best as possible. Generally speaking, people are much better dealing with – going to rehab and dealing with a drug addiction if they have it rather than getting thrown in a jail cell. It’s my job to help the client, humanize the clients to the prosecutor to help them get a good result in that case rather than just going sitting in a jail cell which isn’t going to help any – is not going to help them or society in the long run.
For an adult, the legal limit is 0.08. If you’re under that legal limit, DUI is going to get dismissed as long as there’s any other substances in your system, like marijuana or drugs or anything else. If you’re above 0.08, then it’s above the legal limit for alcohol. As far as the punishments that go along with that, it’s going to depend on the amount. If you’re above 0.08 but let’s say you’re 0.12, that’s going to have a mandatory two days in jail if convicted. If your alcohol gets extremely high into 0.20 or higher, then the penalties go up to seven days. There are different cut offs, but the legal limit is you have to be below 0.08.
A couple of years ago, Tennessee legalized hemp, which is the exact plant as marijuana but it’s genetically modified so it has a lower level of THC, which is the substance in marijuana that makes someone become high. Hemp is now legal. It’s very difficult for trained dogs, can’t smell the difference between hemp and illegal marijuana. Therefore, the officers can’t tell the difference on the street. It’s very difficult for them to be able to tell what’s legal hemp versus illegal marijuana. The offers on a simple possession amount – they can test. There’s an expensive machine they can test and tell if it’s hemp or illegal marijuana but it is expensive for them to do that, time consuming. They just basically don’t want to have to bother with that on a simple possession amount. Frequently, what’s happening now, maybe we’ll get a lot of those cases dismissed or what’s called retired which is what gets put on the shelf, put on hold for a period of time, and then dismissed after six months or a year.
If it’s a DUI first your license is revoked for one year but you can get that restricted license by getting that interlock ignition device on your vehicle, which is essentially like a breathalyzer machine that attaches in your vehicle that verifies that you’re not driving under the influence. Once you have that device installed on your vehicle, you can drive anywhere, any time. There’s no restriction. It’s just the restriction of having that device, the interlock ignition device, on your vehicle.
The main thing it can be reduced to reckless endangerment or reckless driving, both of those. Reckless endangerment is actually a class A misdemeanor just like a DUI. However, it doesn’t have mandatory jail time like a DUI does. It looks better on a person’s record than a DUI does. It doesn’t result in automatic revocation of a person’s license. It’s a lot better for those reasons for a person than a DUI is. Reckless driving is even better. That’s a lower level misdemeanor. It’s a class B misdemeanor. Again, no mandatory jail time and no mandatory revocation of a license.
Typically process in most criminal cases, sometimes someone contacts me while they’re being investigated for a crime and they’ve not been charged yet, but most of the time, they’ve been charged. They’ve been arrested. They bonded out. Then they’re calling me the next day or the next week once they’ve bonded out and want to hire an attorney for their upcoming court date. I do one free consultation for folks so I’m happy to answer whatever questions they have over the phone and/or have them come into my office and meet with me. We’ll sit down and go over what their charge is, have them explain exactly what happened from their perspective, and then talk about prices and what it would take to represent them on that case.
Once I get hired on the case, now I’m going to go about getting the police report, getting the warrant from the court, getting the video from the police department if there is any video. Then I’ll start reviewing all that information as well as getting detailed information from the client, not only with what happened in the case but also personal things like what they do for work, their family situation, different things that can affect what kind of outcome can work for them. For an example, a DUI for a semitruck driver or a pilot has different effects than someone who doesn’t have that type of job. It is very important for me to find out what people do for a living, what their family situation, what their work situation is, because I’ll use all of that in trying to develop a strategy and represent them and getting them the best outcome that we can.
Si tiene cualquier contacto con la policía, si ellos están preguntándole cualquier cosa, por ejemplo, sobre manejar bajo la influencia, no tiene que contestar en inglés, puede pedir que ellos traigan a alguien que pueda hablar en español. Siempre tienen a alguien que trabaja en la policía que puede hablar español, entonces no tiene que tratar de explicar lo que pasó en inglés, puede preguntar por alguien que hable español.
Me llamo David Clarke, soy un abogado aquí en Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he vivido aquí por unos 15 años. Yo viví por algunos años en España, viví allí por dos años y aprendí español allí. Mi español no es perfecto, pero sí que puedo comunicar y entender a la gente.
Tengo muchos clientes que hablan español, la mayoría son de México, pero he tenido clientes de cualquier lugar y he hecho cualquier tipo de caso por personas que hablan español. Puede ser un caso, por ejemplo, de manejar bajo la influencia o cualquier tipo de cargo criminal.