The penalties for a conviction of a violent crime are often some of the harshest penalties available. One reason for this is the fact that most violent crimes involve a victim, unlike some other types of criminal offenses that are considered (arguably) to be “victimless” crimes. Not surprisingly, the testimony of a victim in a trial for a violent crime typically carries a considerable amount of weight with a judge or jury. If you are currently facing charges for a violent crime in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to have an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney on your side. Among the many things your criminal attorney can do for you and your defense is to interview the alleged victim in your case. Interviewing the victim allows you to better prepare for your defense, ultimately providing you with a better chance of succeeding at trial.
What Qualifies as a “Violent Crime?”
Although you probably already have a fairly good idea of what qualifies as a “violent crime,” it helps to know how the law defines a violent crime. In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force. By definition, these crimes involve a victim who was injured, or threatened with harm, during the commission of the crime.
The Role of an Alleged Victim in a Violent Crime Prosecution
Whenever there is an alleged victim involved in a criminal prosecution, the prosecuting attorney typically spends a good deal of time with that victim trying to gather information and prepare the victim for the possibility of having to testify at trial. For the State, a victim can make or break a case. When a victim is believable, and was clearly harmed during the commission of a crime, a jury is far more likely to convict the defendant. Conversely, if a victim is hostile, reluctant to testify, or offers conflicting testimony, a jury is usually more likely to acquit the defendant. Unfortunately for the prosecutor, the State does not get to choose its victim. The prosecuting attorney must prosecute the case even if the victim is not an ideal witness to put on the stand.
How Does a Criminal Attorney Interview an Alleged Victim?
In a criminal prosecution the State of Tennessee has the burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The level of proof required in a criminal trial to convict a defendant is the highest level of proof available under the American judicial system. The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is intended to favor the defendant to ensure that the innocent are not wrongly convicted of crimes. In addition, the defendant in a criminal prosecution has a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him/her guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, a defendant has the right to “be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” One way in which that right is honored is by allowing the defendant to depose an alleged victim. In practice, your criminal attorney will schedule a deposition of the alleged victim at which time your attorney will be able to ask the alleged victim questions. Along with your attorney and the alleged victim, the prosecuting attorney and a court reporter will also be present at the deposition. Think of a deposition as sort of a practice trial where the witness is placed under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury. Because the victim is under oath, any answers he or she gives may be introduced at trial if a different answer is given to the same question. The deposition provides your attorney with a thorough preview of how the witness will likely testify at trial as well as the witness’s demeanor and overall attitude – all of which are invaluable pieces of information when planning your defense.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.