An arrest usually begins the criminal process in Tennessee. Once you are arrested you will be taken to be processed at the Knox County Detention Facility. During this time you will be finderprinted, photographed and your information will be entered in to the Justice Information Management System (JIMS). A bond will be set fr your charges. If you are not able to afford bond, you will be arraigned in jail. If you make bond, you will be given a court date to appear for bonded arraignment at the City County Building at 10am for your arraignment.
The goal at arraignment is to advise you of the charges that are being brought against you. You may have the judge read the charges aloud or you can tell the judge that you know what the charges are against you if you have been informed previously. The judge will also ask whether you would like an attorney appointed, if you qualify based on income, if you want to hire an attorney, or if you would like to work your case out with the District Attorney. If you are unsure you should ask for an attorney or try to hire one of your own before making any decision to plead guilty in your case. Keep in mind that even if you decide to talk to the District Attorney to try to work your case out yourself, THEY WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT AND ARE NOT YOUR ATTORNEY. Once you have told the court you would like an appointed attorney or want to hire your own, you will be given a new court date to appear with your attorney.
General Sessions Court is the first of two (2) steps in the criminal hearing process to determine probable cause. In General Sessions you have an absolute right to a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is for the purpose of determining probable cause, or that more likely than not you have committed the crime that you have been charged with. At the preliminary hearing the standard for finding probable cause is much easier to prove than at a trial if you should get to that stage. At a preliminary hearing the District Attorny will put witnesses on the stand to testify about the crime you have allegedly committed. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine or ask questions of those witnesses to try an negate probable cause. If probable cause is determined to be insufficient you will be released and the charges dismissed against you. If probable cause is found your case will be bound over to the Grand Jury
The Grand Jury is not a proceeding that you attend and is the second step in determining probable cause. The Grand Jury is a group of individual citizens brought to hear the facts of cases as presented by the District Attorney to determine probable cause again. Like at a preliminary hearing your case can either be dismissed or continue to the next step. To continue the Grand Jury must decide that probable cause exists, If they determine that probable cause exists you will be indicted, or formally charged, and your case will be sent to the Criminal Court for a second arraignment.
At the arraignment in Criminal Court, you will be asked if you would like the charges read to you, or if you are represented at this stage your attorney will likely "waive and reserve" the formal reading to preserve time. You are entitled to an attorney at this stage and this will be addressed at the arraignment if has not already occurred. You will then receive a trial date and a deadline to file any motions that may have an impact on your case. The next court date will be determined and your case will proceed.
Criminal court is the court charged with conducting jury trials. You have the right to a trial by a jury along with the additional right to certain items of evidence that the District Attorney has against you, known as "discovery". In criminal court i is not uncommon for your attorney to get "discovery" and to file motions attacking the charges against you after review of the evidence. If you are unable to reach a plea agreement during all of the preceding steps wherein your charges may be reduced or dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea, you will be entitled to a trial by jury. At trial the District Attorney must prove that you committed the crimes charged "beyond a reasonable doubt".
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