How To Handle Criminal Charges When You Are Wrongly Accused

Being an innocent person who is on the receiving end of an accusation can be devastating. Presumption of innocence dictates that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt. However, being innocent does not mean that you can rest easy after being charged. You must be prepared to fight to prove your innocence if possible and you must find a flaw in the prosecution’s case against you.

Try to Stop the Charges From Being Filed

The first step that any defendant should take is contacting an attorney. You should not utter a word that may be used against you in court. Instead of arguing your case to arresting officers or at the police station on your own, request to use your right to an attorney to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Your attorney can try to stop the prosecution from filing the charges in the first place, particularly if there errors in the police report or it is missing key information. Some cases never get filed because a conversation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor reveals that there really is no winnable case for the prosecution. While it is unlikely, preventing the filing is the surest, fastest, and least expensive outcome.

Dismissal Before Trial

If the prosecution does file the charges, the case can still be dismantled before it goes to court. Anything such as failure to read Miranda Rights, lack of a search warrant or other procedural errors will give the attorney leverage on the prosecution. The prosecution may then drop the charges after it faces the reality that they will not be able to sustain a case that developed erroneously. Your defense attorney will have to make a judgment call as to whether or not to bring any information to the prosecution’s attention in pre-trial communication.

Going to Trial

If you are wrongly accused and the case goes to trial, there may be additional opportunities for the truth to come to light. False accusations are harder to sustain over long timeframes, new evidence may present itself that clears your name, or your attorney may be able to establish reasonable doubt during the trial process.

Many options are available for innocent defendants. The most important thing you can do is to take the charges seriously from the get go and hire an attorney to represent your best interests. An experienced attorney can truly turn things around and help clear your name. The last thing you want is to end up on a list like this: 10 Infamous Inmates Who Were Wrongly Convicted.

Can Victims of Crime Sue Perpetrators?

If you have ever been the victim of a violent crime, you might be wondering what recourse you have. Violent crime victims are often left physically and emotionally harmed, but they can also experience significant financial loss. To make matters worse, victims often see their perpetrators walk free due to insufficient evidence.

Even when the courts rule in their favor, victims are still left paying for the damages on their own. This leaves them feeling lost and confused. It is important for victims to fully understand the options that are available to them. Most are unaware that they can sue their perpetrator to compensate for their loss.

When Can Victims Sue

Even when victims are aware of the possibility of taking legal action, they are not sure when they can do it. They believe they have no recourse if they lose in court and their perpetrator goes free. But you can sue even if the courts find the other party innocent in the criminal proceeding.

Most victims are unaware that civil cases are separate from criminal cases, which is what makes it possible to sue. But to succeed, you must have evidence of financial loss or emotional damage; therefore, you must pursue your case as soon as possible. As time goes by, your chance of winning is diminished. The most famous recent examples of this were the criminal and civil cases against O.J. Simpson in the 90s.

How to Sue

When you want to pursue a civil case for damages accrued due to criminal activity, it is vital you know the proper steps to take. If you have not already done so, you must file a report with local law enforcement. Next, you need to contact a lawyer and present your evidence. Many people make the mistake of not hiring the right lawyer for the task.

It is vital you ensure the lawyer you hire is experienced in retrieving compensation for crime victims, which optimizes your chance of success. You lawyer will prepare your case and present it. Next, you and the perpetrator will go before a jury or a judge. If you can display sufficient evidence, the court will likely rule in your favor, and you will receive the compensation you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Being the victim of a crime can cause anxiety and depression, and it can leave you feeling lost and confused. It is vital you take the proper steps to ensure you retrieve compensation for your damages; otherwise, you will likely get stuck paying for property damage or medical bills out of your own pocket. You must first report the crime and hire a lawyer. Your lawyer will help you prepare your case and present your evidence to a judge.

When The Police Fail To Read Your Miranda Rights

In March of 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department. After an attempt to use his written confession at trial, his court-appointed attorney objected. The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States, where Miranda’s conviction was overturned on the grounds he had not been properly advised of his rights against self-incrimination.

Now, over fifty years later, there are few who do not recognize the words “you have the right to remain silent.” Many can recite their rights from memory, largely due to the frequent use of them in scripts for police dramas.

Fifth Amendment

Under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, no person can be compelled to testify against himself. This is the basis for the right to remain silent. A suspect has the right to refuse to answer questions both in police custody and at trial. This right, combined with the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, is one of the most powerful rights a criminal defendant has.

Right Not Privilege

The Supreme Court’s rulings make advising a criminal suspect of their rights mandatory in all fifty states. Anyone in custody or facing interrogation and especially someone who has already been arrested must be “Mirandized” or read their rights and advised they have a right to counsel and to have an attorney present during questioning. Because these rights are so important, the failure to observe them can have consequences.

Excluded Evidence

If the police fail to advise a suspect of their rights in a situation where they are required to do so, any evidence they gain from questioning that suspect and possibly any evidence they gather as a result of what they learn by questioning that suspect can be excluded by the judge at trial. Occasionally this can result in a dismissal of charges, especially if the police were relying on a suspect’s confession as the key evidence to convict.

Exceptions

Occasionally, statements by a person who later becomes a suspect can be admitted into evidence despite the fact the person questioned was not advised of their rights. While this is a fairly standard exception to the rule, police have to tread a very thin line to avoid the appearance they are trying to manipulate the law to obtain evidence they otherwise would not have.

Despite the entertaining notion “the right to remain silent” was made up by an ambitious script writer, it is a central protection for anyone accused of a crime, and its purpose is to help guarantee the innocent will not be successfully prosecuted for a crime they did not commit.

What Mistake of Law Means in a Criminal Case

The common saying that “ignorance is bliss,” does not apply when talking about ignorance of the law in a criminal case. The difference between “mistake of law” and “mistake of fact” is an important concept for understanding the mechanics of a criminal defense. Although mistake of fact can be a valid defense to a criminal charge, a mistake of law is typically not.

What is a Mistake of Law

A mistake of law is when a person does something that is illegal but states that he did not know the act was illegal at the time. The law does not allow this person to escape criminal liability with this excuse, except for very rare exceptions. The underlying expectation is that everyone is aware of the law of the land and cannot plead ignorance of the law as an excuse for criminal activity. These are some of the rare exceptions where a mistake of law defense may apply. It is important to note that these exceptions may not apply in all jurisdictions, which is why it is recommended to consult with an attorney if you have been charged with a crime.

Reversed Court Decisions

If the defendant can prove that he relied on information from the government, and in particular a court decision that was overturned before the defendant committed the illegal act, then a mistake of law defense may apply.

Specific Intent Requirements

This situation typically involves violations of the tax code, such as willfully filing a false income tax return. Because of the complex nature of the tax code and the requirement that the defendant understand that he was violating the code at the time of the filing, proving that you had no knowledge of the requirement or misunderstood its application, can be a valid defense for a tax code violation.

Conspiracy

Conspiracy means that the defendant was involved with a group of people that intended to work together to commit and illegal act. The crime of conspiracy requires that the defendant understand that the ultimately activity was illegal, so if the defendant can prove he had no knowledge of that, then he may have a valid defense.

While there are other scenarios where a mistake of law defense may apply, this is an extremely limited defense, which must be proven by the defendant in order to excuse him from liability of a crime. It is important to consult with an attorney if you think any of these situations may apply to you.

Is DNA Evidence Living Up To Its Promise?

For years, DNA evidence has been considered the decisive factor in forensic cases. On many occasions DNA has proven suspects guilty or helped to prove their innocence. With so much in the news lately about DNA evidence, we had to ask: is it living up to its promise? With all the publicity surrounding the Making a Murderer documentary regarding the convictions of Steve Avery, one certainly cannot dismiss that this once powerful piece of evidence is suddenly back under the microscope.

What is DNA

DNA is the code that determines a person’s physical attributes, such as hair and eye color. During a criminal investigation, DNA samples are collected and analyzed. These DNA samples are then compared to the DNA samples of possible suspects. If the DNA collected at the crime scene matches the DNA of a suspect, the samples are deemed “quality”. The sample is then used as evidence, and the suspect convicted for the crime.

Is DNA Evidence Reliable

DNA evidence may not be as reliable as once believed. For example, in the case of Lukis Anderson, his DNA was transferred to a location he had never visited. While Anderson was at a local hospital, the paramedics who admitted him inadvertently transferred another person’s DNA onto him. As it turns out, the DNA was that of a murder victim, Raveesh Kurma. When police found the DNA on Anderson, he was arrested. The case appeared to be closed and Anderson was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Luckily, the truth was discovered five months later, and Anderson was released.

DNA Fabrication

In addition to DNA being easily transferred, it can also be fabricated. Israeli scientists published a paper in 2009 outlining how DNA evidence can be counterfeited, and that it is not impossible to create a fake DNA profile. In addition, if a suspect’s DNA is found at the scene of a crime, it is still not indisputable evidence of their guilt.

With this in mind, we have to ask, do you think DNA evidence should still be admissible in court?

​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.