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Tennessee Court Records

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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, persons accused of a crime are likely to face trial pursuant to the criminal procedure rules promulgated by the state judiciary. The accused is typically advised to get an experienced attorney for legal representation. During the trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys are required to present evidence and witnesses, following which the court allows both parties to rebut or cross-examine the evidence and witnesses. Once arguments have been made and closed, the judge must table the set of legal standards needed to make decisions to the jury; if the accused person is found guilty of the crime, the judge sentences the individual following the jury’s consistent decision. Defendants who are not content with the verdict of the court may appeal the case.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Tennessee?

The Administrative Office of the Courts is tasked with preparing the Annual Report of the Tennessee Judiciary. The report for 2018 to 2019 revealed 179,987 criminal case filings in Tennessee and 168,407 dispositions, which means that about 93.5% of criminal lawsuits went to trial.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

In Tennessee, all criminal defendants have the right to a fair and speedy trial and equal treatment under the law. According to the Tennessee rules of criminal procedure, a defendant can choose a bench trial at any point in the proceedings, even up to the jury’s swearing-in. The only exception to a jury trial’s right is when the defendant waives it in all criminal prosecutions. However, it is typical for the court to ask before the court proceedings if the defendants want a jury or not. Defendants who do not want a jury trial must document the decision in writing, have approval from the court, and the state’s consent.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Tennessee?

The criminal procedure rules provide the just determination for every criminal proceeding and secure simplicity in proceedings, equity in administration, the elimination of unjustifiable delay, and unnecessary claims on juror’s time. The following are stages of a criminal trial in Tennessee:

  • Preliminary Examination: Also known as a preliminary hearing.
  • Indictment and Information: The jury will decipher if there is enough cause to believe that a suspect has disobeyed criminal law.
  • Arraignment and Pleas: An arraignment notifies the defendant of the charges, the date for pretrial, and the possibility of bail.
  • Trial: Trials of a criminal case can begin in the space of 90 days.
  • Sentencing: If the suspect is guilty, appropriate sentencing will follow suit.

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Tennessee?

According to the Statute of limitations in Tennessee, a case can go into trial within 12 months to 15 years, depending on how grievous the crime committed is. Misdemeanors are minor offenses, and such lawsuits go to trial within six months to one year. Felonies are more severe crimes and are categorized as Class A to E according to the severity of the crime. Perpetrators of Class A felonies appear before the judge within 15 years, Class B; within eight years, Class C and D; within four years while Class C felony; within two years.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Tennessee?

Suspects are usually scheduled to appear in court within the first few days of arrest. This is where the accused person gets information on their charges and rights. The judge may also decide on bail at this point. For a less serious misdemeanor, the alleged offender will most likely be allowed to enter a plea. In felony cases, the judge listens to the prosecution and determines if there is enough evidence for the lawsuits to move to trial. Although the preliminary hearing resembles a trial proceeding in structure, this is not where the judge will give a verdict.

A grand jury will further examine the case if the judge decides it is worthy of being “bound over” to a Tennessee circuit court for trial by jury. A 13-man panel will determine if enough evidence exists to send the case to judicial proceedings. For felony charges, a second arraignment can occur at the circuit court level. At the circuit court, the judge will restate the defendant’s charges and review the bail hearing. The decisions taken for the bulk of criminal cases in Tennessee are through plea agreements/bargains. In the interest of getting a sentence or guilty plea, the prosecution will often lower the charges against the defendants.

During the trial, both counsels have an opportunity to make opening statements. The process usually entails some facts of the case and a foretaste of what the attorney wants to prove. Each counsel presents evidence and tries to challenge those of the opposition. Then there will be closing arguments, which is the last chance for the legal counsels to convince the jury about the case. The jury deliberates and reaches a unanimous decision based on which the judge will sentence the suspect based on a guilty verdict. In cases of unsatisfied judgment, a defendant can appeal to an appellate court like the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.

Can You be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Tennessee?

No, following Article I, § 10 of the Tennessee Constitution, persons cannot be in jeopardy by trying the offender for the same crime twice. Exceptions to this rule include when the case elements are different or when the facts are the same, but the jurisdiction varies from the previously tried case.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Tennessee?

Criminal case records are obtainable upon request at the court where the trial took place. The application should contain the case number, names of the parties, or organization involved and directed to the clerk of court. Requestors must provide other necessary details to aid the search for the record. The office of the court clerk may ask for copying fees and a means of identification. Files of criminal cases appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals can be obtained through the Public Case History database online. Interested persons can retrieve case records online via third-party websites.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Tennessee

To access files for criminal appeals, interested individuals need to give certain information about the case, such as:

  • Case number
  • Case style (For example, the State of Tennessee vs. John Snow)
  • Name of any of the involved parties (For instance, name of the defendant)

These details serve as the search keywords to help filter the result in the electronic database. Under the Tennessee Public Records Act, records generated by government agencies are public, except files containing sensitive or controversial information.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile.
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, charges dismissed on court records get a free expungement. Other conditions for expungement at no cost include when a “no true bill” was returned by a jury. When the defendant was arrested and released without charge, acquired a ‘not-guilty’ verdict in a trial, or received a protection order after defending it from the court. The steps for expungement of case records in Tennessee are;

  • Write a petition for the expungement of court records with the court clerk at the court where the case originated from at its court clerk’s office.
  • Indicate the charges eligible for expungement.
  • Parties that want copies of the expungement will have to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for each charge to be expunged. It is not compulsory to be at the court as the clerk will send in the copies of the expungement.
  • Requisition of certified copies of orders of expungement and the charging document from the court clerk.
  • The paperwork is sent to the judge and agencies involved for expungement.

In cases where case files say “dismissed with charges,” it means there are court costs owed to finalize the expungement, although a fee waiver is possible. When a record says “charge retired,” it means the case is on hold for a long time and interested persons have to request that the case be dismissed and charge expunged.

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