Can Police Do That? Returns to MTSU

For the second year in a row, Murfreesboro Attorney Scott Kimberly will host an event titled “Can Police Do That?” at Middle Tennessee State University, which will discuss interaction with the police, constitutional rights, and a number of other hot topics in the legal field. The series is sponsored jointly by the MTSU College Democrats and the MTSU College Republicans.

The event is scheduled to take place on three consecutive Wednesday evenings, February 10, February 17, and February 24, at 7:00 p.m., at Room S-332 of the Business & Aerospace Building at Middle Tennessee State University. For details on subjects and locations, visit www.CanPoliceDoThat.com.

Scott will host the seminar with his father, retired criminal defense attorney Richard Kimberly. Combined, Scott and Richard have over thirty years of experience in criminal law and criminal justice.

A number of legal issues are exciting to the public. We want people to know their rights when interacting with police, but we also want to have an open discussion on issues that are both important and entertaining to the community. We hope to see you there!

Does It Help That I Have No Criminal History?

In Murfreesboro criminal cases, I am often asked “I have no criminal history, will that help my case?” The short answer is yes, having no criminal history will typically help your case.

Having no criminal history may help in negotiations with the District Attorney.
In Tennessee, prosecutors have discretion in whether to prosecute a case or to offer some sort of plea deal. Typically, when a defendant has no criminal history, that makes the District Attorney more likely to offer a favorable plea deal. However, there is no guarantee of a favorable offer.

For example, if someone is charged with possession of cocaine, the District Attorney is more likely to make an offer of reduced charges to someone with no criminal history than he is to make an offer of reduced charges to someone with an extensive criminal history.

Having no criminal history may make you eligible for Diversion.
One special process that is available to adults with no criminal history is Diversion. In Rutherford County, nearly every Diversion granted is Judicial Diversion, so I will explain the Judicial Diversion process here.

NOTE: There are two types of Diversion: Pre-Trial Diversion and Judicial Diversion.  Nashville Attorney Michael Shipman provides an excellent explanation of the two types of diversion here.

Under Judicial Diversion, a defendant can enter a conditional guilty plea; in other words, a guilty plea conditioned upon a certain agreement. If the defendant completes the terms of the agreement, he may then be able to have the charge expunged from his record forever. However, if the defendant fails to complete the terms of the agreement, then the diversion will be revoked and a guilty plea will be entered.

As mentioned before, the District Attorney has wide discretion in how to prosecute a case, and that includes whether or not to offer Judicial Diversion. A prosecutor is not required to offer Judicial Diversion.

In short, having no criminal history will help your case. You may receive a better offer than someone who has a lot of other crimes.

The Most Important Lessons from Making a Murderer (That No One Is Talking About)

The most talked about television series in the country is Netflix’s Making a Murderer. The documentary focuses on the 2007 trial of Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Since its release, the series has sparked international outrage at the handling of the Steven Avery murder trial, among other things.

As a criminal defense attorney, I am thrilled that Making a Murderer has made two things clear to the general public, neither of which is related to the Steven Avery murder trial.

Wrongful Convictions Exist (the Steven Avery Rape Trial).
In the first episode of Making a Murderer, the viewer learns that Steven Avery was convicted of rape in 1985, only to be proven innocent by DNA evidence after serving eighteen years in prison.

A wrongful conviction is the single most disturbing facet of the criminal justice system. If someone is wrongfully convicted, they lose the most treasured thing in life: freedom.

If nothing else, the wrongful conviction of Steven Avery provides a graphic depiction of an uncomfortable truth: wrongful convictions exist and, as a result, countless innocent men are currently sitting in jail for crimes they did not commit.

False Confessions Exist (the Brendan Dassey Interviews).
Early in the series, the viewer watches Brendan Dassey, Steven Avery’s sixteen year old nephew, sit through hours of police interrogation. In the end, Dassey confesses to the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach.

“Innocent men don’t confess,” the prosecutor in Brendan Dassey’s murder case told the jury in closing arguments. Unfortunately for Dassey, the overwhelming majority of the general public agrees that no one would confess to a crime that they did not commit.

The truth is that many people confess to crimes they did not commit. I can’t explain it, but the inconvenient truth is that false confessions exist.

Need proof? Read the case of Damon Thibodeaux. In 1996, Thibodeaux confessed in graphic detail to beating and murdering his cousin and then spent fifteen years on death row, only to be proven innocent by DNA evidence and ultimately released.

In Making a Murderer, Dassey confesses to police that he raped and stabbed Teresa Halbach and subsequently slit her throat. His next question? Whether he can make it back to school in time for sixth period. The viewer is left to conclude that this young man had no understanding of his own confession.

Conclusion
Countless news outlets, blogs, and television shows have weighed in on the Steven Avery murder trial. In my opinion, the greatest value in Making a Murderer has nothing to do with the Steven Avery murder trial.

Wrongful convictions exist.

False confessions exist.

Now the question is what society can do to prevent such devastating miscarriages of justice.

Murfreesboro Crime: Will Resetting My First Court Date Hurt My Case?

I am often asked will it hurt my case if I reset my first court date? The answer is almost always no.

In Rutherford County General Sessions Court, the first court date is often called the Initial Appearance. At an Initial Appearance, you will have several choices. One of those choices is to ask for a reset to hire a lawyer. Of course, you can try and settle your case that day or try to move your case to another court date, but a few options involve resetting your case to another day: asking for time to a hire a lawyer; or asking to have a public defender appointed for you.

In General Sessions Court in Murfreesboro and Smyrna, each side typically gets the right to one reset. By that, I mean that any defendant can ask the court to reset the case at least one time for any reason. Similarly, the State can ask the court to reset the case one time for any reason. The court allows these requests equally.

In a typical criminal case in Rutherford County, the case is reset several times. The defendant may request a reset to hire a lawyer, to prepare for his defense, or to allow time to do a number of things. The State may request a reset to subpoena a witness, to allow the arresting officer to appear, or to allow the State to prepare evidence.

In short, asking for a reset on your first court date is unlikely to hurt your case. Asking for a reset is a very common occurrence at a first court date. The judge is used to people asking for a reset and the State is used to it as well.

Of course, if you ever have concerns about whether a reset will affect your specific case, it is wise to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in your area. My office is happy to help in criminal cases in Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and all of Rutherford County.

First DUI Court Date: What if the Blood Isn’t Back?

In Tennessee DUI Cases, police often get blood from people arrested for DUI offenses. In certain cases, a driver refuses to give blood. Sometimes, the officer proceeds with the arrest without blood. Other times, the officer gets a warrant and has the blood drawn by force. In summary, the state has blood from the driver in most DUI cases.

Often, people arrive at their first DUI court date to find out that the state does not know their blood alcohol level, or BAC. I am often asked what happens at my first court date if my bloodwork isn’t back and the answer is quite simple.

In Rutherford County Criminal Cases, including DUI Cases in Murfreesboro, each side gets one “reset” from the court, which just means the court would pick another court date several weeks or months down the road. Each side gets one reset by right. Often, the state uses their reset to wait for evidence and a defendant uses his reset to find an attorney. However, there are plenty of reasons to use a reset.

The most common question about bloodwork at a first court date for DUI is whether the case will be dismissed because the bloodwork is not back from the lab. The short answer is no, based at least in part on what is said above– that each side gets to ask the court to reset the case at least once.

If you get to your first DUI court date and your bloodwork is not back, it is alright to ask the court to dismiss your case, but the court will likely just select a new court date. Use that time to your advantage! Learn more about your case, consult with an attorney, or, if you already have an attorney, let your attorney use that time to prepare.