Being accused of a criminal offense is a frightening, and confusing, experience for the average person. Just trying to navigate the criminal justice system can be intimidating for someone who has never had a reason to learn much about the system, other than what they have seen on television. To suddenly find yourself struggling to understand how the prosecution of a criminal case works and worrying about what you should be doing to protect yourself and your future is undoubtedly difficult, particularly given what is at stake.
At the Tennessee law firm of Bennet & Michael we understand how you feel because we have helped many people just like you. Although no two criminal prosecutions involve the same set of facts and circumstances, there are some basic criminal law concepts that are fairly universal. In an effort to help you feel more informed, and therefore more in control of your own future, we have prepared some common criminal law questions and answers. If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Bennett & Michael.
1. What should I do if the police want to question me?
One of the most common mistakes people make is “talking” to the police when they are just a witness, “person of interest,” or suspect. People frequently think they can talk their way out of being arrested when, in reality, that rarely ever happens. The police are trained to question suspects – they do it every day for their job. If you have not been placed under arrest, or are not officially in custody, the police are not required to read you your rights. That does not mean you are not considered a suspect nor does it mean that what you say will not be used against you if you are arrested. Anytime the police want to talk to you it is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent until you have the opportunity to speak to a criminal defense attorney. Find out more about your right to remain silent when questioned by police.
2. What are some of my Constitutional rights?
In the United States, we are all protected by a number of important rights enumerated in the United States Constitution. The most commonly used of these rights are located in the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and are collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” Some of these rights you have likely heard recited on television, such as your right to remain silent. You have other important rights as well though, such as your right to an attorney, a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, and a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Learn more.
3. Do I need a criminal defense attorney if I am not guilty?
In a perfect world, innocent people would never be convicted of criminal offenses. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Although our criminal justice system is among the best in the world, it is not perfect. The reality is that being innocent does not guarantee you a just outcome if you are accused of a crime. Therefore, you still need to protect yourself and your rights by retaining the services of an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney. Learn why.
4. Can the police search my house?
One of the most commonly used law enforcement investigative methods is to conduct a search and seizure, the purpose of which is to uncover incriminating evidence against a suspect. The U.S. constitution protects you against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and, as a general rule, requires the police to first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before conducting a search and seizure of your home. There are, however, exceptions to that general rule. Learn more about the exceptions.
5. Do I need a criminal defense attorney if I plan to accept a guilty plea?
Sometimes, the evidence against a defendant is so overwhelming that the best strategy is simply to try and negotiate the most favorable plea agreement possible and plead guilty. If you plan to admit your culpability and accept a guilty plea agreement with the State of Tennessee, you may wonder why you would still need a criminal defense attorney. There are several reasons, starting with the fact that you owe it to yourself to have an experienced attorney look over your case to make sure you don’t have a valid defense that could prevent a conviction. In addition, an experienced attorney is in a much better position to negotiate a favorable plea agreement if you do decide to move forward with a plea of guilty. Learn more.
6. How do I find the right criminal defense attorney for me?
The single most important thing you can do for yourself if you have been accused of a criminal offense is to retain the services of an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney. Of course, if you have never been charged with a crime before, you may not know where to begin. There are several steps you should take as soon as possible to ensure that you hire the right attorney for you and your circumstances. Learn more about the steps to finding the right attorney here.
If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, you need an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney on your side immediately to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact the team at Bennett & Michael today by calling 615-410-2454 to schedule your appointment.