How to Ensure COVID-19 Closures Don’t Harm Your Criminal Case

One aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that we did not fully anticipate is a large scale closure of criminal courts in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and the rest of the country.

As a quick refresher, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a suspension of in court proceedings through the end of March 2021. That Order has now been scaled back to March 15, 2021, but the impact has been felt by thousands of individuals arrested in Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and the rest of Tennessee.

One of the most common questions we have been asked is will the suspension negatively impact or hurt my case?

In most cases, the answer is simply no. However, there are also things you can be doing to ensure that your case will not be harmed by the closure.

In Murfreesboro criminal cases, time can be your best friend. The more time that passes in a criminal case, the more chances you have to show the District Attorney a track record of months in which you have not been charged with new offenses, can pass drug screens, donate time through community service, and satisfy conditions of a potential resolution of the case.

While the suspension of court proceedings serves an important and legitimate purpose, as Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys, we fully understand the weight that pending charges can cause to the individual, their families, and their community. While we all wait for the courts to reopen in Mid-March our team encourages you to use this time wisely and work to put yourself in the best possible position to reach a positive and efficient resolution to your case.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense in Rutherford County give our office a call at 615-890-1099. Our team of experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge and community resources to help get you on through the obstacles you are facing and on to the rest of your life.

What Do I Do If a Police Officer Says I Am Being Detained?

In criminal cases in Rutherford County, Tennessee, our clients often find themselves face-to-face with police, at a time where police are making a decision to press charges or not. We are often asked what do I say if the officer says I am being detained or arrested?

The short answer is very simple: ask for your lawyer!

Every year, our office lectures at MTSU on police-citizen encounters and, more specifically, what to do if you are pulled over by the police. At the end of the presentation, we typically offer a simple way to end a traffic stop that we call one question, two answers.

The question is am I under arrest? No matter which way the question is answered, we advise our students to respond with only four words.

If the police say no, you are not under arrest, we advise our clients to say: I want to leave.

If the police say yes, you are under arrest, we advise our clients to say: I want my lawyer.

And that’s it!

A simple way to understand what to do if an officer says you are being detained (also called being arrested), is to respond with only four words: I want my lawyer!

Nothing else! No comments, questions, suggestions, or other information. Be respectful, ask for your lawyer, and understand that the police have an important job to do, so don’t be a jerk for no reason.

If you or a friend are arrested in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, or anywhere else in Rutherford County and Middle Tennessee, give us a call and we can talk you through the next steps.

What is the Rutherford County Recovery Court?

On Tuesday, our office had the privilege of visiting the Rutherford County Recovery Court Open House to learn more about the services offered to criminal cases in Murfreesboro and all of Rutherford County.

This post is not based upon an official position from the Recovery Court. Instead, this post is based upon our experience working with these courts as well as what our clients relate back to us from their participation in the programs.

The Rutherford County Recovery Court includes at least four different programs: DUI Court, Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court. Each court is intended to address the underlying issues that may have led to criminal conduct, whether it is: alcohol dependency (DUI Court); drug dependency (Drug Court); untreated mental health issues (Mental Health Court); or service-related conditions (Veterans Court).

From our perspective, these programs benefit our clients significantly more than alternate sentencing or other conditions. If you put someone with an alcohol dependency in jail, they will ultimately be released back into the community with little, if any, treatment or acknowledgement of what caused the jail time. However, if you put someone with alcohol dependency into an intensive program like DUI Court, they will receive support and guidance upon re-entry into society, which will almost inevitably reduce the chances of more criminal conduct– which makes the community better!

Additionally, these programs are a cost-effective alternative to jail time. It costs Rutherford County over twenty-five thousand dollars to house one inmate for a year. In the alternative, the cost to put a participant through the Recovery Court hovers around five thousand dollars a year.

To summarize: Recovery Court has a higher chance of treating the underlying issues that led to someone being charged criminally and can do that at a lower cost than jail.

At our office, we are advocates for the Rutherford County Recovery Court. We have seen this program make a life-changing difference in the lives of many of our clients.

Very few people can truly say they change lives through their work. Here at our office, we believe that the staff at the Recovery Court can confidently say it and we are incredibly appreciative for their life-changing services. If you are reading this and you or a loved one works for the Recovery Court, please accept our sincere thanks.

You can learn more about the Rutherford County Recovery Court at: http://rutherfordcountytn.gov/recovery-court/

How Can I Avoid a Criminal Record?

When we meet with new clients facing criminal charges, whether it is Domestic Assault, Theft, Assault, or some other criminal charge, one of the most common questions we are asked is how do I protect my criminal record?

In Rutherford County criminal courts, charges are not often dismissed immediately. Instead, there are often two primary ways that our clients can protect their permanent criminal record: through use of a retirement or a diversion.

Retirement
District Attorneys have the discretion as prosecutors to determine when charges should result in a conviction. At times, the District Attorney decides to offer a retirement instead of a conviction.

When a charge is retired, the case gets continued for a set period of time, usually sixty days, ninety days, six months, or one year, during which time you will be asked to complete certain conditions. During this time, the Court will hold on to the criminal warrant without any finding of guilt. The Criminal Court Judge will set a review date for you to come back into the Court to review whether you have completed any required conditions and to confirm that you have not picked up any new criminal charges.

If you have successfully completed the retirement, the court will dismiss the criminal charges and have them expunged from your permanent record. As we said above, this is a great way to keep your criminal record clean!

Diversion
In Tennessee, every adult receives one diversion in their life. Under a diversion, you would actually admit guilt to the charged crime; however, the Court would not enter your guilt. Instead, the Court places you on probation for a set period of time and, if you complete your conditions, the charge may be erased from your record.

A diversion can be used for most non-violent criminal offenses (importantly excluding certain common charges like Driving Under the Influence and Reckless Endangerment by Motor Vehicle).  To qualify for a diversion, your attorney will need to submit an application to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to run a background check to determine if you have any disqualifying offenses.

If you have successfully completed the diversion, the court will dismiss the criminal charges and have them expunged from your permanent record. But be careful! If you do not complete your conditions, the Court can (and often will) enter a conviction against you without any further chance to fight the charges.

Conclusion
Both Diversion and Retirement can help you reach your end goal: a clean criminal record. Another way to help protect your record is to hire experienced, local, Murfreesboro attorneys. If you have any questions or would like to meet with either Scott or Chase, give the office a call at 615-890-1099.

If I Am Arrested, Should I Talk to Police?

The short answer to this question is NO.

If you are arrested in Tennessee, you have a number of constitutional rights, including (and most importantly) the right to remain silent and to not incriminate yourself, given to you by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

That’s not to say that it is always best to remain silent. There are times when speaking with the police may help everyone better understand what happened and also help your potential criminal prosecution, but this can be done with your lawyer present.

That’s why our short answer is NO. If your lawyer is not present, the answer is always NO. If your lawyer is present, you should communicate with law enforcement only through your lawyer.

By the way, this isn’t just the recommendation of some criminal defense attorneys in Murfreesboro. We have had several private conversations with prosecutors, deputies, detectives, and others in the criminal justice system. Without fail, every person confirms that if a friend or loved one were arrested, their advice would be to get a lawyer before speaking to the police.

If the police, prosecutors, and court staff won’t even speak to law enforcement without a lawyer present, why would you?

If you or a friend or loved one are arrested in Rutherford County or in Middle Tennessee and need help, feel free to contact our office. Our team of Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorneys is here to help—when it matters most.