If you’re reading this, it’s likely you or someone close to you has been charged with a felony in Tennessee. The penalties for a felony conviction can be severe, often including substantial fines, imprisonment, and a permanent record that can significantly impact your life. It’s important to understand that these potential outcomes are not just theoretical. They can become all too real if you’re not equipped with the right guidance and defense strategy.
While this can be a stressful and uncertain time, it’s essential to understand your next steps. Proper guidance can make a significant difference in your case’s outcome. At Barnes & Fersten, our extensive experience in criminal defense law equips us with the knowledge you need. Let’s dive into five steps you should take immediately after being charged with a felony in Tennessee.
Step 1: Preserve Your Right to Remain Silent
The first and most critical step after being charged with a felony is to exercise your right to remain silent. This fundamental right is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment, and it’s there to protect you. Law enforcement officials are trained to gather information that can build a case against you. Anything you say, even if you believe it to be harmless or supportive of your innocence, can be manipulated and used against you in court.
For instance, let’s consider a scenario where you’re charged with a theft of property you didn’t commit. While being questioned, you mention you were near the crime scene at the time it occurred, thinking this might demonstrate your cooperation. However, this information could instead place you in the vicinity of the crime and possibly strengthen the case against you. That’s why it’s essential to remain silent until you can consult with your defense attorney.
Remember, your silence cannot be interpreted as an admission of guilt. It is a legal right designed to protect your interests. Invoke this right firmly but respectfully when interacting with law enforcement officials and wait for your attorney before making any statements.
Step 2: Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Securing legal representation should be your immediate next step after being charged with a felony. Navigating the intricacies of the legal system without assistance can be hazardous and may lead to unfavorable outcomes. When choosing a defense attorney, it’s crucial to consider their knowledge in Tennessee’s criminal law, their track record, and their approach to your case.
The role of your attorney extends beyond the courtroom. They will be your advocate during police interviews, ensuring your rights are respected. They’ll help you understand the charges and potential consequences you’re facing, and explain the legal options available to you. Your attorney will also guide you through the nuances of plea negotiations and trial proceedings, should your case go that far.
Remember, a criminal charge is not a conviction. An experienced attorney can devise a strategy to challenge the prosecution’s case against you and work tirelessly towards the most favorable outcome possible.
Step 3: Preserve Evidence and Document Events
One of the most important ways you can contribute to your defense is by promptly and thoroughly sharing all relevant information with your attorney. Start by documenting everything you can recall about the incident that led to the charge and your subsequent arrest. Be as detailed as possible. Was there anyone with you at the time of the alleged crime? What exactly was said or done? When and where were you arrested, and how did the officers conduct themselves? Did they inform you of your rights?
For example, if you’re facing aggravated assault charges, any information about the incident could be crucial. Did someone else start the altercation? Were there any witnesses? Was there something specific that provoked the incident? Your attorney needs to know these details to build a comprehensive defense strategy.
Also, if you’re aware of any physical or digital evidence that could support your case, inform your attorney. This could range from a text message that proves your location at the time of the alleged crime to a piece of clothing that contradicts the prosecution’s narrative.
Transparency and communication with your attorney are absolutely vital. They need all the pieces of the puzzle to effectively represent you. Even the smallest detail could be the key to challenging the prosecution’s case or raising reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind.
Remember, this is not just about avoiding punishment—it’s about ensuring that your side of the story is heard and that the truth prevails. Trust in the expertise of your attorney and provide them with the tools they need to fight for you.
Step 4: Comply With All Legal Requirements
Facing a felony charge can feel overwhelming and immensely stressful. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remain compliant with all legal requirements and instructions given to you during this time. This includes attending all court appearances, adhering to any conditions of your bail or release, and responding promptly to any legal correspondence.
Failing to meet these requirements can result in further legal complications and could potentially negatively impact your case. For instance, missing a court date could lead to a bench warrant for your arrest, and non-compliance with bail conditions might result in its revocation. While these requirements may feel burdensome, especially when you’re grappling with the weight of your situation, they are necessary steps in navigating the legal process.
Your attorney will be instrumental in helping you understand and manage these obligations. They will guide you through each stage, explain what is expected of you, and answer any questions you have along the way. Having an experienced legal guide can make your situation less daunting and more manageable.
Remember, the goal here is not just to defend against the charges but also to maintain your reputation and standing in the eyes of the court and the prosecution. Compliance with all legal requirements demonstrates your respect for the legal process, which can only serve to benefit your defense strategy.
Step 5: Maintain a Low Profile
While your case is ongoing, it’s in your best interest to maintain a low profile. This means behaving responsibly, both online and offline, to avoid attracting negative attention that could potentially impact your case. It’s important to remember that prosecutors, judges, and even potential jurors could view your public behavior and social media activities.
For example, if you’ve been charged with a felony involving drug possession, sharing images or comments related to drug use on social media could be detrimental to your defense. Even if the posts are from before your arrest, they could still shape perceptions of your character and behavior.
In addition to monitoring your social media presence, it’s also advisable to limit discussions about your case. While it’s natural to want to confide in friends and family, you should only discuss the specifics of your case with your attorney. Conversations with others could potentially be used against you if those individuals are called as witnesses.
Also, avoid any actions that could lead to additional legal trouble. Now is the time to be especially mindful of your behavior and choices. A new arrest or charge could complicate your existing case and undermine your defense strategy.
Maintaining a low profile doesn’t mean you have to navigate this path alone. Your attorney will be your advocate and guide, providing you with the advice and support you need while you focus on presenting the best possible image to the court and the public.
Take Action with Barnes & Fersten
A felony charge in Tennessee commences a challenging legal process. But remember, a charge is not a conviction. With the right steps and strategic actions, you can navigate these challenges.
At Barnes & Fersten, we focus on criminal defense law. With an extensive understanding of Tennessee’s legal landscape, we’re prepared to stand as your steadfast advocates. Our team is committed to listening to your story, understanding every detail, and crafting a defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances.
Take the first step towards your defense today. Contact Barnes & Fersten for a free consultation. Your future is worth fighting for, and we’re ready to support you in this fight.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.