​The Rules of Criminal Procedure in Tennessee

Criminal prosecution is the process of bringing an individual to trial for violating a criminal law. Once an individual is accused of violating a criminal law, he or she is given the right to a fair trial by a jury of peers, which will determine if the defendant is innocent or guilty of any violation.

The Rules of Criminal Procedure are intended to provide for “the just determination of every criminal proceeding“, and are construed to secure:

(a) simplicity in procedure;

(b) fairness in administration; and

(c) the elimination of:

(1) unjustifiable expense and delay; and

(2) unnecessary claims on the time of jurors.

A criminal case begins by either a charge being filed in Municipal Court or the grand jury returning an indictment. These are the following steps of a trial that determines if an individual is guilty of violating criminal law, also known as criminal prosecution.

Preliminary Examination

During a preliminary examination, also referred to as a preliminary hearing, it is determined whether a felony crime has likely occurred. A defendant has the right to waive this process and take the case to the Grand Jury. If the defendant does not waive this process, then a judge may determine that enough evidence exists to take a case to trial.

Indictment and Information

If the judge decides it is worthy of being “bound over” to a Tennessee circuit court, then a grand jury will further examine the case to determine if they agree that enough evidence exists to send the case to trial. If it does, you will be “indicted”, or formally charged.

A Grand Jury is composed of 13 randomly selected citizens. The prosecutor and Court Reporter are also present. The jury will determine if there is enough probable cause to believe that a suspect has violated criminal law. The defendant will testify before the Grand Jurors, and the case will proceed to the Common Pleas Court for arraignment if an indictment is issued. A defendant also has the right to waive this proceeding if he or she so chooses.

Arraignment and Pleas

An arraignment notifies the defendant of the charges he or she now faces, the possible bond and the date for a pretrial conference.

In Tennessee, most criminal cases are settled through plea agreements. These agreements can be in the best interest of both the defense and prosecution and will typically result in a lesser sentence. As your attorney, I will help you determine if a plea bargain is the right move for you.

Trial

The prosecuting attorney attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated criminal law during the trial. A defendant also presents his or her side to prove that no violation has occurred. A trial must typically be held for a case within 90 days if the defendant is being held in custody and within 270 days if he or she is out on bond.

Sentencing

A pre-sentence investigation held by the Adult Parole Authority is conducted if a guilty verdict is found, or if a defendant is determined guilty by a plea resolution. The court also provides input of the appropriate sentencing.

If you have been convicted at trial, you will have the right to appeal both your conviction and sentence at the same time. You will have a limited window of time to file your notice of appeal with the sentencing court

For a complete list of the rules of criminal procedure in the state of Tennessee, view this page.

Key Legal Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Divorce is a very stressful time for all the parties involved. Emotions are running high for both parties, and in many cases the need for revenge is prevalent. Sadly, many legal mistakes are made because decisions are being made with emotion instead of logic. In an effort to help you get through your divorce with ease, we recommend you avoid making the following mistakes:

Type Of Divorce Proceeding

Are you using the right type of divorce proceeding for your case? Talk over your options with your attorney. You can use mediation or other forms of negotiation to settle your divorce, and this could save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Divorce Attorney

Have you chosen the right attorney for the job? It is important that you select an attorney that can handle your type of case. For instance, if you know that your ex-spouse is going to be aggressive, you will want to have an attorney who is equally passionate about being on your side. Additionally, going through a divorce is not the time to use a friend of the family that is a corporate lawyer. While they have the authority to do this, they may not have the experience and knowledge of current divorce proceedings to accurately represent your case.

Financial Standing

It is important that you are fully aware of your financial standings both as an individual and as a couple. Make sure you know all of your debts and assets and are aware of what income and assets your spouse separate from yours (regardless of when they were acquired). Be sure you understand any debt held jointly in your names — not knowing where you stand, and where you stood financially as a couple, could cause you problems for many years after the divorce.

Social Media

Social media is not private or protected. If you are going through a divorce, avoid posting on social media. If you must post something, do not post anything about your divorce, your current separation, your spouse, your finances, or your plans for the future. Do not post anything that could make you look bad or be used against you.

Remember: everything you say can potentially be used against you.

If you are going through a divorce, correcting any of these mistakes will help you through the entire process, but the first line of defense is always a great attorney. Make sure you seek professional assistance so you have a strong advocate on your side.

What To Know About Changing & Challenging Child Custody

Specific laws and procedures govern child custody issues. When parents agree to modify an existing custody order, the process is fairly simple. Greater difficulty arises, however, when parents do not agree to proposed changes.

In all custody cases, the overlying concern is the best interest of the child. To have your request granted by the court, you must be able to demonstrate that the order you seek or the modifications you request will benefit the child and serve his/her best interests.

Timing

Depending on the state where the custody order originates, there may be a minimum period of time that must pass before a modification can be pursued. Even if your state does not have a specific waiting period, courts are often wary of requests to modify in cases where an order has been in effect for only a short amount of time.

Reason For Change

If your situation does meet the requirements for modification, you will need a good reason to justify the requested changes. In order for any modification request to be considered by the court, the change must meet the standard of a material change in circumstances and this standard must be shown.

The material change in circumstances standard allows consideration of a broad array of evidence. Examples of evidence that may be meet this standard would include a long-distance move, change in living conditions, issues with the child’s development, and many other situations.

Requested Change & Custody Order

If a material change in circumstances has been shown to the court, the parent requesting modification must also show that the requested change is in the best interest of the child and requires presentation of evidence to support that claim. Family law attorneys will be familiar with the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate the best interest standard.

Receiving a custody order or modification of a custody order requires compliance with specific rules and procedures. Typically it includes filing papers that contain specific information and adhere to formatting rules. Compliance with these procedures and rules can be overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with the process.

An experienced family law attorney will be able to advise you about the time restraints on custody modifications. Be sure to consult with an attorney and seek out representation to assist you with throughout process in order to achieve a successful change request.

How to Talk to Small Children About Divorce

When two people decide to get a divorce, they often think about the impact the process will have on their small children. After all, divorce drastically alters the daily routines of any family. If you are going through a divorce, you may be trying to find ways to carefully share this information with your small children. It is understandable that you want to present the information in a manner that leaves your children feeling secure and loved.

There are many effective ways for you to help your children adjust to your divorce. Here is a guideline that will help you talk to your small children about divorce.

Toddlers

During this stage, young children develop meaning about the world around them. They learn to count on the consistency of familiar routines. Divorce changes these routines. As a result, toddlers may become insecure. It is essential that you maintain a sense of structure for your toddler children. Discuss their feelings about the separation. Reassure your children that they did not cause the separation.

Preschool Children

As children progress through this stage, they feel as if they have a sense of control over their environment. This control provides them with security and confidence. Divorce challenges this level of certainty. Children will resist the separation at all costs. As you prepare your preschool age children for your divorce, provide an environment in which it is safe to share their feelings. Children in this age group need as much support and structure as toddlers.

School Age Children

In this age group, children will have strong feelings about divorce. They may unite with one parent, and blame another. Another thing they will do is exhibit behavior problems because they are angry. It is important for you to patiently guide your children through any anger or abandonment issues that may be a consequence of your divorce. Let your children know that you or your spouse will not abandon them. Provide them with ample opportunities to discuss their feelings without being judged or criticized.

In the beginning of the process, your children will have to overcome negative feelings and sadness. By providing your children with the proper tools to handle your divorce, you can help them successfully adjust to their new way of life.