What is the Difference Between a Dismissal and a Retirement?

I am often asked what is the difference between a retirement and a dismissal? In short, the short term looks a lot different between these two things, but the long term looks the same.

What is a Dismissal?
A dismissal is exactly what it sounds like; the State dismisses the charge against you. In Murfreesboro criminal cases, for General Sessions and Circuit Court, the District Attorney may decide to dismiss charges for a number of reasons. A dismissal means that the State has decided not to pursue charges against you and will end the case at that time.

What is a Retirement?
A retirement is best described as a delay with a dismissal at the end. A retirement means that the case will be continued, which means we will pick a new court date in the future, for a certain period of time. After that period, if you have complied with certain requirements, then the case will be dismissed (see dismissal definition above).

What is the Difference Between a Dismissal and a Retirement?
The difference between a dismissal and a retirement is what happens in the short term during the first six months to a year after your court date. Under a dismissal, there is no immediate actions that you need to take. Under a retirement, you may be required to perform certain tasks or conditions.

If a case is dismissed, it is over, which means that you have no restrictions on your behavior and no conditions you have to complete. In the short term, you are free to act however you wish, just as you were prior to being arrested and/or charged. In the long term, your case is dismissed and expunged from your record.

If a case is retired, then the case is not over. Instead, you have a new court date, likely one year away, and you have a signed agreement that you will complete certain conditions during that year. If, and only if, you complete those conditions, then the case will be dismissed. In the long term, like a dismissal, your case is dismissed and expunged from your record.

As always, if you have questions about Murfreesboro criminal cases, consult a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer about your case.

When Should I Waive My Miranda Rights?

Question: When should I waive my Miranda Rights in Tennessee and speak with police about a criminal case?

Answer: Never.

If police want to ask you questions or if you are arrested in Murfreesboro or Rutherford County, tell the police that you want a lawyer with you. Do not speak to law enforcement or answer any questions without your lawyer present.

I thought about writing more extensively on this subject, but that just about covers it.

Jail Time: Will I Have Time to Turn Myself In?

I am often asked “if I am sentenced to jail, will I have time to turn myself in?” The answer, in almost every case, is yes.

Plea Agreement
If you reach a plea agreement in your case, which is where you agree to plead guilty to a certain crime, part of the negotiated agreement will be a certain date upon which to turn yourself in. Plea agreements can be reached in misdemeanor cases, felony cases, and even violations of probation.

Typically, you will get thirty days to turn yourself in. However, your attorney may negotiate more time depending on your circumstances.

Failed Drug Screen on Court Date
In Rutherford County criminal cases where you are on probation at the time of your court date, the court requires you to take a drug screen on the day you are in court. If you fail the drug screen while on probation, the court will put you in jail immediately and revoke your bond.

If a court revokes your bond and sends you to jail, you will not have time to turn yourself in, but be sent to jail immediately.

Found Guilty at Trial
The Rules of Criminal Procedure have certain rules about when someone is turned over to jail.

In most cases, if a jury finds you guilty of a crime, the judge will order you to go to jail immediately, pending the sentencing hearing. In some cases, however, you may be allowed to remain outside of jail on bond until the court issues a sentence in the case.

Conclusion
In short, whether you will have time to turn yourself in depends on the kind of case you have. In most cases, the parties reach an agreement and are able to negotiate time to turn yourself into jail, which helps people plan ahead, provide for their families, and keep their jobs.

What can I do to Avoid Jail Time?

I am often asked “what can I do to avoid jail time” in Murfreesboro criminal cases. In short, there is no way to guarantee that you don’t go to jail; however, there are some positive things you can do to increase your chances of avoiding jail.

It’s important to note that lawyers can’t guarantee anything. Any lawyer who guarantees you anything is lying to you. In criminal defense, an attorney plays probabilities, and our job is to educate you on likely outcomes and work towards the best resolution possible.

Mandatory Jail Time. Jail is required in some cases. For example, if you plead guilty to a DUI offense, there is mandatory jail time: forty-eight hours for a first offense; forty-five days for a second offense; and it moves up from there. Similarly, multiple Domestic Assault convictions require minimum jail time.

When Jail Time is not Required. In most cases, there is no minimum jail time, which means that some or all of a sentence could be assigned to probation, not jail. A probation sentence is going to be within the range of punishment for the crime. Consult an attorney to discuss the possible ranges of punishment.

Warning: Probation isn’t “Just Probation.” But be careful with probation! Probation is a suspended sentence, which means that you are being sentenced to go to jail and you are being allowed to complete probation instead. If you fail to complete probation, you will be expected to serve every day of that sentence in jail! I often see people take several years of probation to avoid a few days in jail. Later, they violate probation and are on the hook for years of jail time, all because they thought “it’s just probation.” Be careful!

What You Can Do. In cases where jail time is not required, there are things you can do to move yourself in the right direction. In short, you want to work on rehabilitating yourself. If you are charged with drug possession, start attending drug classes. If you are charged with domestic assault, complete an anger management class.

These are just a few examples, but the summary of how to avoid jail time is to make yourself someone worth helping! Show the District Attorney that you are committed to rehabilitation and they may work out a resolution that will allow you to complete your rehabilitation without required jail time.

Of course, this is an over-simplified version of the court process. To know your options, consult with a local defense attorney about your case.

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.