If you were recently arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you are likely dealing with a considerable amount of stress and worry about your situation. You probably have a number of questions as well. If you have never been involved in the criminal justice system before, you may not know where to look for answers and advice. The best place to start is with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can answer questions about the criminal prosecution process in general as well as questions about your case specifically. To ensure that you don’t forget to ask any of the most important questions during your first meeting, you may want to write down the following five questions you should ask your criminal defense attorney.
- Can you please explain the charges against me in more detail? Most people have a fairly good idea of what they are charged with when they are arrested; however, you need to know exactly what criminal statutes the State is charging you with violating. In addition, you should know exactly what elements the State must be able to prove to convict you of those statutes. For example, if you are accused of robbery in the State of Tennessee, the applicable statute reads: “Robbery is the intentional or knowing theft of property from the person of another by violence or putting the person in fear.” In that case, the prosecutor will need to prove three elements, including that you:
- Intentionally or knowingly
- Took property belonging to another person
- Using violence or by putting the person in fear
- What are the potential penalties if I am convicted? Potential penalties will depend on a number of factors, including the offense(s) for which you may be convicted and any criminal history you may have. Knowing the penalties for the level of crime you are accused of committing is a good place to start; however, if you have a criminal history, were on probation or parole, or a weapon was used the potential penalties could be aggravated.
- What evidence will the prosecutor use against me at trial? The initial police report and charging information may provide some clue regarding the evidence against you; however, the prosecuting attorney is also required by law to provide your defense attorney with “discovery,” which is a legal term referring to potential evidence the State plans to introduce against you if the case goes to trial. Your attorney should go over all of the evidence the State claims to have against you with you as part of your defense strategy.
- Can you get any of the evidence thrown out? Sometimes, extremely damning evidence against a defendant never makes it into the trial record because something about the evidence itself, or the manner in which it was collected, allowed a defense attorney to get it “thrown out” or excluded. If, for example, the police conducted a search of your home with a search warrant, your attorney might be able to get any evidence seized during that search excluded if the search didn’t qualify for one of the narrow exclusions to a warrantless search. Likewise, if the police questioned you after you were taken into custody but without advising you of your Miranda rights, or continue to question you after you asked for an attorney, your answers might be excluded.
- Can I do anything to help with my defense? Not only should you ask your criminal defense attorney this question, but you need to really listen to the answer. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do to help your case is to stay out of trouble while it is pending. Other times, however, there is something concrete you can do, such as locate contact information for a friend who can provide an alibi or dig up pay stubs that explain why you had cash on you at the time of your arrest. The most important thing you can do is to stay in contact with your defense attorney and follow the advice that he/she gives you while your case is pending.
Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.